Excerpt 56

Years later, she and my father boycotted my wedding and sent a neatly typed note on engraved eggshell stationery: “Mr. and Mrs. Robert R. Smith, Jr., will not attend.”

I waited for an explanation for their absence. I waited for decades, but it never came.

My mother and I were master/slave; Hitler/Jew; shark/bloody leg; Mr. Murdstone/David Copperfield; Johan/Henrik in Ingmar Bergman’s Saraband.

Whenever someone asked about my “Mom,” my gut reaction would have been to answer, Mom? I don’t know anyone like that. Nancy, my biological mother,  the popinjay, the vituperative termagant, was certainly no Stella Dallas.

To my mother, every aspect of life was categorized as a bargain or overpriced.

That included me: poor Return On Investment.

I had no siblings. To visit her after I left home for college, a formal invitation was required. Christmas was the only time that I was permitted to return to my parents’ house.

Excerpt 54



Had lunch–turkey sandwiches–at Viand coffee shop on Madison with Marilyn and Helen from work. Said they really admired me for surviving so long working for my boss, Beatrice, editor-in-chief of DR. Magazine.

Everyone else quits after three months. Beatrice is cold, ruthless, demanding. Always has her underlings in tears. Marilyn said that I was a “very cool lady.” Enjoyed their company and their compliments, of course.

Ah, the advantages given by Southern repression.


For French author Madame de Girardin:

“To love one who loves you, to admire one who admires you, in a word, to be the idol of one’s idol, is exceeding the limit of human joy; it is stealing fire from heaven.”

That perfectly describes what I am looking for!

Work is easy. Love is hard.

Excerpt 53

Robert calmly told his wife, Nancy, that if Gerhard, his male lover and draughtsman, abandoned him, he would commit suicide.

Nancy told me this when I was a teenager. No one ever told her that children were supposed to be protected from the cruelties of life in order to have some optimism and hope for the future.

It was an idea that she was incapable of forming on her own.

There was no FUN in our dysfunctional family.

Neither humor nor love or compassion touched us.