Excerpt 79

1959

Memphis

The Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in the front yard of the house across the street from us. The NAACP had purchased the house for an African-American minister. Every weekend several of our neighbors strutted up and down the street carrying loathsome signs painted black and white: “N——, Get Out.”

The one Jewish lady, Mrs. Roseborough, on our block (and the only homeowner who had a swimming pool) had produced Tennessee Williams’s first play, Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay, in her backyard.

She became a target for the KKK, as did my parents, because they refused to participate in the Sunday marches. Not long afterward, a Molotov cocktail sailed through our window, and obscene and threatening phone calls were becoming a common occurrence at three in the morning.

Often, Robert was out of town on business trips and sexual escapades, so my parents decided for safety’s sake that it was time to move.

            My parents sold our house to a lovely black lady, a missionary, who traveled back and forth to Africa. Her niece, Zola,  was one of my favorite playmates. Until my father died,  Zola’s aunt was his landlady; he rented the small office building behind the house for more than thirty years. It was always a mutually respectful relationship.

Excerpt 78

Both Alexa and I are childless by choice. Thank God for Mary McCarthy and diaphragms. Someone said McCarthy did for diaphragms what Melville did for whales.

When we were in our teens, we made the decision not to become mothers.

Our mothers had branded us with pain.