by Nancy McDaniel
Not my mother
Nor my stepmother
Nor even an official godmother
But my “almost mom”
Who has loved me for over 60 years
I’m an “almost sister” to her two sons
For those same 60 years.
Maybe better than a “real” mom
Because we are first of all friends
I can talk to her more honestly and openly
Than I could to any of my “other” moms
Laughing over silly mistakes
That we each make
Or things we both forget
Helping each other with projects
Reminiscing about old recipes, old parties
And funny stories from 50 years ago:
What would you think of a mother who purposefully set out to make her 10-month-old baby girl cry — just so she could record the breakdown and publish it on YouTube for the entire world to see?
Would you champion that mother as the prime protector of her offspring?
Or would you instead be bothered by the unnecessary spectacle of a mother exploiting the emotional well-being of her vulnerable baby for entertainment purposes?
Ella was born rich — if you consider a revocable living trust an exploitable financial asset — into a family of a self-made lawyer father, who was rumored to be a Midwestern consigliere for the East Coast mafia, and a mother who bred racing horses in the backyard of their remote, and expansive, farm. Her mediating older brother was a template of his harsh father. Ella was a meek mimeo of her mother.
The best way to make your way through a four-year university system is to take every single Summer Session course you can. You speed through the work. The instructors are much more malleable and welcoming. You are able to learn at a much quicker pace over a three-week session instead of a 15-week semester. However, there was one summer class I took at a local Midwestern, land-grant university that I will never forget because it was so awful and because I was so clearly, but unwittingly, branded by the instructor, as a Student Who Could Do No Right. That instructor was wrong, but he was the unrighteous one wielding a grading curve like a cudgel.
When I was, perhaps, nine-years-old or so, I was required to sculpt an art project out of clay. Others in my class created the clay expected: Animals, their Initials, flowers, and cars. I, for some reason, decided to create a life-sized Winston cigarette pack — flush with a few cigs sticking up out of the top.
While we are alive, we are free to do what we choose and live with the consequences of our actions. After we have passed away, we would hope that it would not be possible to have choices about our future life made for us. This is precisely why it always bothers me when books are published after the passing of authors — particularly when the author requests that his notebooks be burned after his passing.