Winter and Spring

She sat on the couch quietly. After some time, she got up and gathered together the paraphernalia–the plastic containers and rubber tubes and the needles they had stabbed into his arms and chest and then pulled out and thrown on the floor. Not good for the children to see. She… Continue



On the way home from his third week in first grade, David sat quietly looking at his lap. It was hot and I was tired, so I didn’t ask my son why he wasn’t his usual talkative self. By the time we got home and I got the groceries out of the… Continue


It’s Day Three of my life as the mother of Vivian, and I’m frazzled. Acquiring an 8-year-old ready-made might upset anyone’s equilibrium, but it isn’t just that. Half the time, I can’t even understand what my little girl is trying to tell me. Right now, for example, as I’m pouring… Continue

Still Driving

I remember the long hot drive to Tijuana from Los Angeles and, once there, the driving round and round the streets searching. There were no phones, no phone books, no signs on buildings.  What would the signs say, anyway? “Anglo Abortions Performed Here.” I stopped somebody on the street and… Continue

No Other Choice

David was about 3, and he and I were living in Monterrey in California. I was working as a waitress and making just enough to pay for the basics—rent, child care, food, utilities, phone, gas. I had developed an infection in the lymph nodes in my groin and had to… Continue

No More Bikini

A car in the street next to us slows, and the driver, a sinister, scruffy guy about my age, leans across and rolls down his passenger-side window. He is staring at my daughter. Vivian is striding down the sidewalk just in front of me and seems oblivious to him. The man… Continue

No TeeVee!

Loretta Young swirls on camera, glittery and with the tiniest waist. Five minutes later, she is diaphanous and dangerous in very little light, gliding down dark stone steps. What’s that behind the wall at the bottom of the steps? Is that a man coming out of a grave? He seems… Continue

My Dude Ranch

My father was to be stationed at a new air force base in Uvalde, TX. Several months before we were to transfer there, he made the trip by car from our then-current posting at Albany, GA, and rented us a house. Almost as soon as he signed the papers and… Continue

Sex Education

It was the first year that sex education was taught in Louisiana schools. I may have been in junior high. My P.E. teacher, a woman with very short hair, a tweed sports coat and sturdy brown shoes, is standing before an all-girl class waving a picture of a penis over… Continue

The Christmas Branch

A “memoir” is a memory of something that has happened: truth, insofar as you remember it.  But what if you don’t remember? It’s Christmas 1969. David, my son, and I are living in a little upstairs apartment in Los Angeles. It has a living room I’ve furnished with redwood lawn… Continue

I’m a Good Girl

I’m home. My school books are on my desk.  I’ve got my grape Kool Aid and, oh, there are cookies cooling. Mama knows I like chocolate best. Is it hot enough? The thermostat says 78 degrees. Darn, only 78? It’s gotta be hotter than that. I got all sweaty just… Continue

A Challenge to be Cheerful

There are 48 states on my United States map, but only four of them—Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri and Kansas—are between Florida and Colorado. So Denver, where Mama will be in Colorado, isn’t very far away. And it’s OK, anyway, that Mama will be gone for a while because I’m going to… Continue

The Other Kind of Milk

Up early, I put my slip on backwards and fumble buttons on my new blue dress. I stumble into my new shiny shoes with socks. No more shorts and bare feet. It’s not summer any more. Halfway to the kitchen, I realize I’m not put together well and go back… Continue

Damn Doorframe

How old am I? If anybody asks, I have a proud answer: “I’m 5.” The neighbor lady who brought me home to my mother asked me that. But that’s not the question now. Now, it’s “Why did the lady have to bring you home?” and “Did you cross the street… Continue

Why Katharine?

When my mother found out she was pregnant the first time, she knew immediately that it was a girl. My father was amused. Nobody could know the sex of a baby until it was born, so this must be just one more piece of evidence for the foolishness of women…. Continue


I was in a doctor’s office the other day—yes, a doctor’s office, bastion of the hopefully-healthy old, though I myself even at my age still go see the doctor only about three times a year. As almost-usual, the doctor’s assistant couldn’t find me in the computer system the office uses… Continue

My Grandfather

From my Grandfather, I learned about honor.   The knock came long after the family had gone to bed. Dr. Waller answered the door nonetheless—in those days, doctors were on call 24 hours a day. Standing on the porch were two swarthy men with long black hair, wide sleeves, intricately… Continue

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