It occurs to me that it might help illuminate certain oddities in the way Connie acquited herslef were we to look at them from a perspective Lynn never considered: Molly’s. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll probe the ‘darkness’ and see how she ‘came back.’
Most people who knew Greg and Helen Thomas and their daughters saw them as being something of a perfect family like out of a television program. What they didn’t realize until much later is that said show was a ‘very special episode’ about Demon Rum….or in Helen’s case, Demon Vodka. Oh, she tried to hide it well but by the time her oldest daughter Molly turned thirteen, the picture perfect life they had fell to bits. The problem Molly had was that her father had a mental peculiarity that really made her life kind of awful: an aversion to discussing painful subjects. Not only did Molly not know why her mother had to go away, her dad didn’t feel like being around when she wanted to talk. She found out later that he was ashamed of not catching on and he also had the misguided good intention of not wanting Molly or her sister Gayle to think badly of their mother.
The reason this was a problem was, sadly, the timing of everything. He never seemed to want to be around to reassure her that it wasn’t her fault and he wouldn’t talk so she fell in with a set of disaffected, alienated children who also baffled and terrified their parents.
Well, not exactly children in some cases. One of the children Molly associated with was a man ten years older than she was. She couldn't quite explain why it was that she seemed to seek out college boys instead of moody contemporaries whose optimism faded in the face of toxic family dynamics. Perhaps, she thought later, she was looking for a father image that spoke her language instead of either avoiding talking things out or running his mouth about oh, yes, he did understand her despite the fact that Grandma and Grandpa Thomas were sickeningly sweet. Man. If she could have lived with THEM in Arizona, she could have gone back to being the sweet kid she was instead of feeling as if the world were caving in. No such luck for her or Gayle. Just angry old people who forgot what it was like to be young, scared and being told no all the time. Her forever-and-ever love Donny never said no to anything and he made her feel as if she fit in some place instead of being the angry kid looking like a ragheap come to life (thanks for the vote of confidence, DAD) who needs to adjust her attitude.
Things might have blown over on their own had her dad not come up with a ‘solution’ that was no solution at all: going out and getting them a new mother to replace the old one they lost touch with. While the woman Molly is now makes the rueful admission that she would have seen a saint as an evil intruder bent on eliminating any chance of getting her REAL family back, it’s just as easy today as it was in 1986 to see why Connie Poirier was a problem.
To begin with, she had an unrealistic goal in mind: trying to create an instant family and instant joy and instant everything without having to put in any sort of effort to it. Being told that “I’m not HER but I’m HERE so give me love” never made too much sense to the angry child who wanted to have the picture perfect life she had before the divorce. To the child she was, it was obvious that accepting Connie meant forgetting her mother (mostly because Connie insisted that it did) and that would be bad. The woman who sees Connie as the ill-used woman she was and is regrets what she did; this is why Connie is more acceptable as a second grandmother to her own children than she ever was as a mother to her and Gayle.
That being said, she does allow as how she might eventually have gotten used to Connie had it not looked as if the woman not needled her dad into dragging her and Gayle away from their home and their friends in order to live near this strange family called “Patterson” (who never seemed to want to visit Connie herself for some reason) in a place called Milborough that she and her son Lawrence missed too blistering much. When she and Gayle arrived at Connie’s pokey little town, they weren’t impressed. Connie saw this “Elly” she was friends with and her son Mike who Lawrence was friends with as being wonderful people who would magically enrich her and Gayle’s lives. Molly saw an annoying old drag who swept porches like she was trying to impress everyone, let her dumb children and dumber mutt run around unsupervised and who also ran her mouth about people she never met. As for this Mike creepy little Lawrence liked, the little fink with the staring problem was a nasty piece of work. Worse, this Mrs Patterson seemed bent on pitting Gayle against her when they had to stay together. The lady seemed to be some sort of witch because Connie and her dad and almost everyone didn’t realize what a nasty piece of work she was. To think Connie saw Dirk as a problem just because he was a college kid when she didn't see how dangerous this suburban Svengali of terrible parenting was. It was easier dealing with the recovering alcoholic her mom turned out to be than people in some sort of cult of worshiping a crazy woman. That gave her the perspective she needed to see that Connie was simply a pathetic victim of fate blindly wishing to be someone she mistakenly thought had a better life than she did. And it was not as if the idiot Patterson woman lacked any sort of use either. Having heard from Connie during one of her incessant telephone lectures about how hard off her dimwit Dad was waiting for his daughter to 'leave the darkness' (by which Greg meant 'pretending everything was still okay without working to make it okay') about how the negligent fool came within an inch of letting her third child die because paying attention was haaaaaard is why Molly is an advocate for neglected children.