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? There’s hair,… 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

In 1952 when I was 9 years old, my father was stationed in Atlanta, Georgia. Soon after we moved into our house there, other officers’ wives started suggested to my mother that she hire a Negro maid (when I was a child, “Negro” was the polite term for black people)…. 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

A Tin Toy Gas Station

When I was about 6, Mama bought me a doll for Santa to give me for Christmas. She helped Santa with the gift by sewing an elaborate doll’s outfit: an ivory satin and lace gown with gathers and ribbons, a pair of diminutive ivory gloves with lace insets, and satin… 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


When I was 4 years old, I had this lamp on the nightstand next to my bed. The lamp had a ceramic base that was a statue of the Borden Milk Company’s Elsie the Cow with her young son, Elmer. I had the lamp because my father worked at the… 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

Three Generations are All Mother

I was born two months premature in 1943 before there was such a thing as neonatal intensive care. In telling the story of my birth, my mother said the medical staff at the hospital acted as though I was expected to die. I was parked in an incubator for a… Continue

Because Laughter Feels Right

The first step in memoir writing is to decide on and write down your reason for doing this writing. You may write your memoirs for any one or several of the reasons listed in So You Want to Write Your Memoirs. “Because Laughter Feels Right” was written for one of… 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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