Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Perfect fried egg prepared by a doting mother,
Wisconsin 1977

That spring I was crazy about a guy who was the director of the campus radio station.  He came from Wisconsin and always wore jeans and Frye boots.  He was a swashbuckler, and he bedazzled me.

It always took longer for spring to arrive in Chicago.  Even in May, one might find a little patch of snow lurking deep under a hedge.

Now here came Easter weekend, with an invitation to visit my guy in the small town where his father, mother, and sister lived.

The eighties were not even on the horizon, so most college girls dressed in ways that were. . . unattractive. I decided to swap my battered jeans for a new, flowery skirt.

The skirt would be paired with brown clogs so that I would be sure to look my very best.  Did I really not own a nice pair of shoes?

Was anyone ever so young?  asked Joan Didion in her essay, “Goodbye to All That.”

I am here to tell you that someone was.

Off to Wisconsin, where for the first time I saw a mother truly fawn over her son.  Anything he wanted – including trimming the sunny-side-up eggs so that the perfect yolks were surrounded by perfect circles of white.

I remember thinking: I can’t top that.  And, do I want to?

For the bloom already was off the rose.

In the guest room to which I’d been assigned, sitting on a bedspread that matched my skirt, I opened the drawer of the night table and found it packed with love letters from my boyfriend’s high school girlfriend, desperately begging him to take her back.

How awful to behold.  It was necessary to scan just two or three of the letters to realize that I was going to be axed, because that’s how he operated.  I felt badly for the ex-girlfriend, and wondered why the letters were in this particular drawer rather in than his room.  And also: why keep them at all?

Sure enough, he did break it off a few weeks after the Easter visit.  I should have ended it first, but just like his ex-girlfriend, I had been swashbuckled.

IBM Selectric, queen of the electric typewriters

The school year came to a close and I headed to Waltham, Mass., where my brother attended college.  That summer, he had rented a room in an old house. Another room became available so I took it without even having a job.

Happily, it turned out that the Brandeis University music department required someone to handle the phones and type letters and reports.  The instrument I played was the IBM Selectric, still the most wonderful typewriter that ever lived, at 90 words per minute.

The department chair paid me the ultimate compliment when he said that I typed the way he imagined Beethoven had played the piano.   

Also living in the house were a woman who would become an eminent professor of American literature and a Soviet Jewish immigrant, astounded by American appliances, who would start college in the fall.

The house where we lived faced back onto Nipper Maher Park, which had a baseball field where a team of youngsters called the Little Nippers played at night. We’d sit on the bleachers and watch.

Nipper Maher Park
Waltham, Massachusetts

A terrible heatwave smothered the East Coast for more than two weeks.  I read more books faster than ever before – David Copperfield and The Woman in White and at least 20 more. That may not sound like a scintillating summer, but it renewed me.

Much later, my kids loved to hear about the perfect eggs.


  1. Great story, especially the part about the eggs. Never date a mama's boy.

  2. I surely still have the letters you wrote me from that summer. Its amazing to me that I have forgotten stories that I no doubt could have recounted back to you for several years after I heard them.
    How it is that anyone types 90 wpm? I could never crack 55.


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