Thursday, 9 February 2017

An Homage to My Public School Education

If anyone had cause to fear the U.S. public school system when I was a kid, it may well have been my own parents. Raised in tightly knit Mennonite communities—the “Mennonite fishbowl,” as they sometimes called life in such communities, in retrospect—they’d been taught to value a Mennonite education. That is to say, a private education.[i] At Eastern Mennonite High School, from which they both graduated, girls still wore prayer coverings as part of their daily attire, while some boys and all the male teachers wore dark collarless jackets – the typical Mennonite “plain coat.” They did not participate in extramural sports teams; adult chaperones accompanied them on all dates; and if you got caught sneaking off to the movies, you’d be suspended from school. At the same time, my parents enjoyed a deep sense of belonging at their Mennonite high school – a place where their teachers knew their mothers and fathers, and where when they sang together in chapel, everyone knew how to sing in parts.

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, 1962.
With my Grandpa and Grandma Hostetter, modeling the
Mennonite plain coat and prayer covering.
They’d been taught to value private, Mennonite education so much that when my mother left Eastern Mennonite High School for a public university, she spent the last weeks before her enrollment agonizing over whether or not to wear her prayer covering to class.[ii] Meanwhile, my father and all eight of his siblings attended a Mennonite high school, despite the fact that financial means were so tight, the family often fell behind on their rent. It was a time-honored tradition in Dad’s family that when one older sibling finished high school, he or she would work for the next two to four years to fund the next sibling in line through a Mennonite high school.

Our first house in Hickory, c. 1973
My grandparents, my parents, me, with my
Uncle Chuck and Uncle Darrel and Aunt Sherill. 
You might have thought, then, that when the time came for them to think of their own children’s education, my parents would have scrambled to find a private school option for us. Or, barring that, they might have considered home-schooling. But when they moved in 1972 to Hickory, North Carolina – where they raised my four siblings and me, and where we all went to public school, first through twelfth grades – my parents must have been ready to try something new. They had, after all, fled the fishbowl. They had left their families of origin in Virginia and Maryland, where they’d both grown up the children of Mennonite preachers. They’d left their communities of origin, too, where they were surrounded by fellow Mennonites.

They’d chosen Hickory, North Carolina, instead: a place where Baptists and Lutherans were plentiful but where no one, it seemed, had ever heard the word Mennonite. Whenever I identified myself as a Mennonite to my peers in school – and to their parents, too – the common response was a wrinkled brow: “You’re what, now, honey? A Mormon?” While I don’t think it was ideology, per se, that caused my parents to choose Hickory, North Carolina as the place where they’d spend their adulthoods – and bring all five of us up – I do think that, in choosing Hickory, they were choosing a significant change. They were ready to immerse themselves in a culture quite different from theirs.

I want to be clear: There’s nothing wrong with a Mennonite education. I had one myself, in college. What I hope to emphasize is that my parents had, as I see it, many reasons not to send my brother and sisters and me to public school. But they did. And while no educational system is perfect, I believe that the public schools of Catawba County, North Carolina served me and my four siblings well. In light of the political events of the past week in the U.S., I want to honor that now.

There's some feathered hair!
(Thank you, Farrah Fawcett.)
I’ve said that ideology does not drive my parents, and I’ve come to see this as a gift. They were Mennonite, yes, and they made sure we kids knew we were, too. My parents sought out what was then one of a very few Mennonite churches in North Carolina – a good half-hour’s drive from our house – and attended it with us, Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, and often on Wednesday nights too. We went to Bible school there every summer. As a child, I moved weekly between this relatively conservative church – where women did indeed still wear prayer coverings, where divorce was still openly censured – and my public school, where my peers could sing along with all the pop songs on the car radio, and feathered their hair like Farrah Fawcett. What’s more, their parents let them stay up late, Friday nights (I soon found out, on sleepovers) to watch Johnny Carson and old reruns of Doby Gillis.  

Early on, then, I saw there were other ways of thinking and being – ways different from my own family’s. Shuttling between my Mennonite church and my classes in the public schools, I was learning that, even in my little town, there existed various and quite different spheres – and that people in each of those spheres could be interesting or dull, kind or cruel. My weekly movement between these two worlds was, I think, my first cross cultural experience, my first hint that the world is wide.

My parents never expressed regrets about sending my siblings and me to public school – to exposing us to mainstream American culture in a way we might not have been, otherwise The only time I know of when my mother may have had second thoughts occurred when I was in 3rd or 4th grade and the movie Grease first came out. Starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John when they were gorgeous and young, Grease is a somewhat romanticized view – well, it’s a musical: a romanticized view may go without saying – of a Chicago public high school in the 1950s. It also features a PG-rated sex scene, between Stockard Channing and some greaser guy, in the back seat of the guy’s Thunderbird. My mother did not know about this when she agreed to take me to see Grease.

In retrospect, it amazes me that my mother ever took me to see a movie at all – much less a PG-rated movie. Much less Grease. Mom is someone who could happily live without ever sitting in front of a TV or film screen. But she had a friend – obviously a non-Mennonite friend – who could not stop raving about it; she’d seen Grease once for herself and then taken her own daughter, roughly my age, to see it too. The movie reminded Mom’s friend, I think, of her own high school experience. Or as movies can do, it recast her experience in a slightly more beautiful, nostalgic light than she could conjure in her own memories. It glamorized and heightened what she recalled of her teenage years in the 50s. Seeing the high school students of Grease drag-race and dance and fall in love under the bleachers, Mom’s friend was seeing her own young, idealized self and the friends of her childhood.

But nothing could have been farther from my mother’s own high school experience. Mom’s friend must have overlooked or forgotten this fact, in her enthusiasm for Grease, and when Mom and I hit that sex-in-the-car scene, halfway in, we both became deeply embarrassed. In my memory, I was embarrassed because she was so clearly embarrassed. She squirmed visibly in her theatre seat and  started whispering into my ear. “We can leave now. Do you want to leave?  This is terrible. We ought to leave.”

But I shook my head fiercely and slunk farther down in my seat. Somehow it seemed more embarrassing yet to stand up and walk out at that moment.

I tell this story not to embarrass my mother again, but to thank her. Here in this movie was a clear glimpse of what some in her community of origin might have feared about mainstream, secular high school. But she bit her lip and sat with me through it. I’m sure she talked to me about it, too, afterward. But she let me keep living in the world, the particular world she and my father had brought me to live in. She did her best to make sure I was equipped, emotionally and morally, to go out into that world, and then she let me go to it.

My parents supported me through public elementary, middle, and high school. They joined the  PTA and became rather famous, locally speaking, when my dad once bought all the second-hand chairs at a PTA fund-raising auction. They came to Family Night during Book Week and bought me my very first copy of Little Women when I was in the third grade. Later on, they came to my track and cross country meets, and to my athletic banquets. But they also let me, on a daily basis, navigate the world of school – the world of my mainstream peers – by myself. They let me take the world’s measure – to see what there was to see – and this as much as anything else I can think of has gone into making me who I am.

What was best about public school? I could write a book about going through the Catawba County school system in the 1970s and 80s – and who knows, maybe one day I will. But for now, I’m going to focus on a few of the teachers from public school who I still fondly recall.

Miss Sentelle in 2nd grade was, in retrospect, very young. It was her first year of teaching; she must have been just 22. She was one of those teachers whose last names changed a year or two after you’d had them, so that Miss Sentelle was actually Mrs. Henderson to the majority of her students over the years, though to me she is still Miss Sentelle. She was the first teacher who noticed my interest in reading and writing, and actively encouraged me in those pursuits. We had Reading Hour once a week, when you read your own book from home or the library at your desk, and so it was that in the middle of Miss Sentelle’s class I one day started to cry. I was reading Little Town on the Prairie and had just found out that Mary Ingalls went blind. Later I wrote a play based on Little Town on the Prairie, and Miss Sentelle let me and my classmates enact it for the rest of the second grade.

Oh my yes: this is me,
in Miss Sentelle's 2nd grade.
Book Week  in November was my favorite week of the school year, and Miss Sentelle seemed to love it almost as much as I did. For Book Week, Miss Sentelle read us stories. Then we wrote our own stories. We made book covers, too, that were hung in our elementary school halls. We had a Dress Up Day when we all dressed as a favorite book character, and we had a parade in the gym. Miss Sentelle dressed up like the little girl, Virginia, in the story, Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus – which she’d just read aloud to us. I dressed up like Mary Ingalls.

Mrs. Shumate in 3rd grade was another teacher who saw and encouraged my writing. She even let me read my stories aloud to the class. I wonder now if this made some of my classmates despise me – but if they did, they covered their feelings well, because all I recall of those times is feeling proud and excited. I was an overweight, way-too-tall kid – not until high school was I ever not the tallest kid in the whole grade – and I wore my hair in long pigtails: very uncool. But writing was something, I was starting to find, that I could do: that made me feel very happy and which seemed to have the power to make other people feel happy, too.

I don’t remember how I started writing my very first novel that year; it was called Four Sisters and was a plagiarized take on Little Women, a book which obsessed me then and for years to come. But it can’t have been a coincidence that I wrote it while in the third grade, when my teacher was letting me know, loud and clear, that she thought I had a gift for writing and was actively letting me explore it.

In 8th grade
In 5th and 6th grade, Miss Hamilton, too, was a teacher whose name changed soon after I knew her. (She became Mrs. Smith.) She taught an advanced section of Language Arts, with the same group of kids in it for two years in a row. As most of us do, I found puberty – from 5th grade through 8th – to comprise my least favorite years, but Miss Hamilton’s class every afternoon was an island of comfort and joy. Miss Hamilton also encouraged my writing and let me design and make her bulletin boards.

And yet – oh, the thoughtlessness of children! – a friend and I in this Language Arts class once made up a not entirely kind poem about Miss Hamilton. It wasn’t mean; we really liked Miss Hamilton. We thought we were just were just having a joke. But we called her “Hammy Hamilton” in our poem, and somehow this poem made it into the wrong hands – the hands of another teacher, to be precise, who brought the damning poem to Miss Hamilton. But Miss Hamilton did not punish us. She told us, in private, after the other teacher stalked out of the room, “I remember how it is when you’re a kid. Sometimes you just want to make fun of adults. I think we all did it, one time.”

Mrs. Eades in 11th and 12th grade taught a language enrichment class and supervised the school newspaper, on which I was an editor. I was also, not to put too fine a point on it, manic through most of high school – underslept, underfed, and underprepared. Mainly, I was just having too much fun. But my daily slew of activity sometimes bit my butt, as when, in Mrs. Eades’ class one morning, we had a big project due. So big was this project that we’d been working on it in stages for weeks; I should have had plenty of time to complete it. But I had not. I did not have it ready that morning. Had I forgotten the deadline? I think I must have; otherwise I can’t imagine how I dared show my face in that class.

But as I slid into my desk, one of my friends whispered to me that today was the day: the semester-long project was due, and I panicked. Scared and ashamed, I ran and hid in the bathroom. It was there that Mrs. Eades found me. She stood outside my locked toilet stall and knocked on it gently. “Patty?” she said. (Everyone called me Patty back then.[iii]) “I know what happened,” she said. (My friends must have told her.) “It’s all right. It’s okay. You can come out.”

How was it all right? I couldn’t believe Mrs. Eades at first. Then again, Mrs. Eades was not a liar. I opened the toilet stall door just a crack and peered out with one red, running eye.

“Everyone makes a mistake sometimes,” she said. “And I know your usual work ethic. I know your overall quality of work. I’ll give you a pass this one time.”

Getting inducted into the Beta Club Honors Society at
St. Stephens High. (Yes, for some reason we had to dress up as rabbits.)
At St. Stephens High School, I had many teachers who in one way or another inspired me, or pushed me to be a better self. There was Mr. Thomas, the history teacher, who would stride into class every morning in winter and rip off his sweater, then hurl it on top of his cabinet; this always struck me as funny and still does. More importantly, he used literature to help us engage with our history lessons; in his class, I read The Jungle and A Tale of Two Cities for the first time. There was also Mrs. Daughton, my exuberant red-haired Spanish teacher, who made me want to add a Spanish major to my English major in college, and Mr. Deal, who though he taught math, which I hated, never let me off the hook. “Stop studying the insides of your eyelids there, King,” he would say, if I drifted off in his class. And on at least one occasion he genuinely tried to figure out with me if I’d been traumatized, somehow, by math in my past. Why did I hate it so much? We never did get to the bottom of this, but I still remember: he tried.

Mr. Hoke,
c. 1981
No list I make of happy experiences in public school could be complete without Mr. Hoke, my Advanced English teacher for four years of high school, and also my cross country coach. Mr. Hoke was the person whose house I drove to, honking the horn, in the middle of the night, when I won All-State in the 3200 meters. I’d just gotten back from the track meet in Raleigh, and after my horn woke them up, Mr. Hoke and his wife came out into the yard in their pajamas to hug and congratulate me. Mr. Hoke also coached me through my first marathon, in Charlotte, and was at the finish line when I crossed.

There is much more to say about how much I loved running for the St. Stephens High track and cross country teams – and how Mr. Hoke as my coach helped encourage me throughout those years, how he helped me find and test my limits as an athlete – but he was as serious and skilled an English teacher as he was a coach. In his class, I diagrammed sentences. I wrote two research papers – with footnotes! – that I still recall. Mr. Hoke’s lessons in how to write an organized research-based essay are ones I repeated to my own students, years later, when I taught college. And look what we read in Mr. Hoke’s class in one year! Here’s the sophomore-year reading list: Jane Eyre, The Pearl, Animal Farm, Hamlet, The Old Man and the Sea, The Ugly American, The Robe, My Name Is Aram, The Good Earth, Lord Jim, Rebecca, and A Separate Peace.

Not the least of the memorable things Mr. Hoke did as a teacher was to have a Christmas tree in his class – a real, live tree, which the seniors were responsible for acquiring each year, no questions asked. On the last day before Christmas break, we’d turn off the lights in Mr. Hoke’s classroom except for the lights on the tree; then we’d sit under the tree. Mr. Hoke would sing Christmas songs to us – “Blue Christmas” by Elvis was his perennial favorite – which embarrassed us all profoundly but which we also secretly loved.

Here was an adult who enjoyed life so much! And wanted our company in it!

He, like all my best teachers in public school, widened my view of the world.

[i] While “public school” has a different meaning in the UK, in the US it refers to any school in a government-sponsored and subsidized system.

[ii] She did not. Her parents told her, “We trust you to make the best decision about this,” and my mother ultimately decided that her covering might create more questions or distractions than “be helpful,” as she puts it today.

[iii] But please don’t call me that now.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

A Family of Doers

I come from a family of doers. Whenever I make this observation, people around me—if they know my family at all—often goggle their eyes and say something like, “Yeah, you’re not kidding."

My maternal grandparents, Charles and Grace Hostetter,
outside the house that their family built, c. 1990.
When people say this, they are almost certainly thinking—I am, too—of my mother’s family of origin, the Hostetter side of the family tree. Hostetters (I hope none of them mind my saying so) have a spark of the zealot about them. They are workers by instinct; more specifically, they are fearless helpers. If they meet someone homeless, they take that person into their homes; if they see a car accident by the side of the road, they’re likely to stop and help out. When they were younger, my Hostetter uncles and aunts got together and with their own hands, from the ground up, built my grandpa and grandma a little green-painted house in Hickory, North Carolina.[i]

Of course I’m generalizing—it’s a huge family—but this is the impression I’ve received since childhood of the Hostetter family. The Hostetter characteristics are deeply familiar to me; when I was a kid, one or another of my mother’s brothers, my Hostetter uncles, were living in my parents’ home; when I was twelve, my mother’s parents, my Hostetter grandparents, moved into that little green house, right next door to ours.

And the jump-to-the-rescue, jump-up-and-do-whatever-needs-to-be-done energy that I’ve seen flowing through most of my Hostetter relatives has always been alive in my mother. As a child, my impression of housework came entirely through her, and it seemed like a battleground: a field to be attacked with every implement available, with a firm lip and fast-flying hands.  

My sisters (Sandy, Cindy, Linda) and me, near Chicago,
c. 2008
As a child of a mother like this—as the sibling of three sisters who all, more or less, share these Hostetter traits—I have benefitted hugely from this can-do, hop-to-it zeal.[ii]  It came in handy for sure when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2014.

It was already an unusual year of my life, even before that diagnosis. I was spending half of each week in Madison, Wisconsin, where I had a one-year fiction-writing fellowship; I commuted by bus from Chicago, where Dave and I had an apartment, and where he remained all week long, for his job. My health insurance that year was with the University of Wisconsin; my diagnosis of breast cancer came through the UW medical center. For this reason, my first months of cancer-related consultations and treatments also took place in Madison—a three hours’ drive from Chicago and Dave, and much, much farther than that from my parents and brother and sisters, in Virginia and North Carolina.

I was, however, incredibly fortunate in my Madison friends. Before I got cancer, another fiction-writing fellow at UW with me—Janet aka DJ Thielke—had already been letting me sleep on her couch when I came up every week for three days. After my diagnosis, as those three days stretched into four, five, six, DJ volunteered to let me stay with her through my first chemo treatment and after—when we both expected I would feel sick. She made jokes about how I should feel free to be sick in her house: “You and me in our PJs, throwing up in the trashcan,” said DJ. “It’ll be just like we’re in college again.”
The creative writing fellows at the University of Wisconsin, 2013-2014:
Me, Jennifer Leonard, DJ Thielke, Timothy Welch, Jesse Damiani, and Matt Modica

Two days before my first chemo treatment, I reported this joke on the phone to my sister Linda, back in North Carolina. Linda was not satisfied. “Taylor,” she said—in our family, that’s been my nickname for ages—“Taylor, I don’t think you’re taking this seriously enough. I don’t think you understand how wiped out by chemo you’ll be.” She did not yet know DJ nor how wonderfully supportive DJ would be through it all; moreover, Linda was worried that Dave could not get to Madison from Chicago to be with me through my first chemo.

In sum, Linda thought that I needed help, extra help. And she was the person to give it. With less than two days to plan her trip west to me, she bought the cheapest plane ticket to Wisconsin that she could find. It would take her as far as Milwaukee; from there, she’d rent a car and drive across half the state to Madison.

Linda and I on the UW campus, March 2014
Never mind that she was the mother of three teenaged and pre-teenaged children; never mind that she lived a two hours’ plane ride away from me (plus another two hours’ drive, as it turned out). Never mind that it was March in Wisconsin, the ground still covered in snow, Lake Mendota still frozen solid and the snowbanks along all the sidewalks still as tall as my head. The very next day—the day before I started chemo--my sister Linda rang the doorbell of DJ’s apartment and came in looking wild-eyed.

“Y’all, I just drove across the prairie,” she said, “in the tiniest car I’ve ever driven. The wind was whipping me from side to side all across the highway, and all I could see for miles were these cows standing around in the snow.”

And yet: there she was. In the flesh. My sister, Linda. She stayed with me for the next four days and nights. By day we went to my various appointments with doctors; she sat with me during my chemo and during a fitting for wigs. We also went to the movies together, took short walks around the UW campus, and ate Thai take-out food on DJ’s couch.

In short, she  accompanied me.

I did not feel too bad after that first chemo treatment—they got a little bit harder to take, over time, but the first one just made me feel woozy for a few days—and those four days with Linda were almost like a mini-vacation. (With more winter’s-end ugly snow and hospital visits than you might associate with a vacation.) By night she slept beside me, the way we had done when we were kids sharing a double canopied bed, on DJ’s big fold-out couch.

Linda and I in 1973: about the ages we were
when we started sharing a bed
Even though I technically did not need rescuing, I still think of it sometimes as Linda’s rescue of me. Not in an enfeebling or codependent way—not at all. Rather, she stepped up for me. She stood by me. She perceived a need and addressed it: straight-on, smack-dab.

I’ve told this story before, but it’s come to me again because I’ve been thinking a lot about illness—illness, specifically, as a metaphor for the current political malaise in the U.S.—and what in the world we can do about it. For this still is my response, my gut level, knee jerk response, whenever I hear about the latest atrocity committed by the D.T. administration: What can I do about it? I’ve been trained long and well to think that the best response to any new crisis is immediate—often dramatic—action.

“But here’s the thing,” Linda told me last night on the phone: another long-distance phone call, this time between North Carolina and the North of England. “The thing is, with the D.T. administration, I don’t know what to do about this.”

By this she meant the barrage of bad news coming out of the White House these days: the banning of Muslims from the U.S., the firing of the acting U.S. Attorney General; the ongoing cabinet appointments in which the appointee stands against the concerns of his cabinet. “I felt so energized after the Women’s March,” Linda said, “but since then I feel like I’m just casting about for the next thing to do. It feels like a shitstorm, just one terrible decision after another coming out of the White House, and it almost paralyzes me.”

For any woman with the “doer” Hostetter blood in her veins to feel frozen— deactivated—by current events: If that’s not a sign of a country in crisis, I personally don’t know what is.

“I feel like I’m in a hole,” Linda said. “I’m so depressed and angry at the same time, I almost can’t move. Or it’s like I’m in a box, and the instructions for how to get out are printed on the other side.”

Of course, she’s not alone. All I have to do is open Facebook to feel the D.T.-related distress of friends all over the world. My Facebook thread consists mainly of posts from people in throes of despair or panic:

“I can’t turn it off: I can't do anything but read / watch the news.”

“I’m so busy keeping up with each new horrible thing D.T. is doing, I can’t work / write / make my art anymore.”

“I think my news feed is literally making me sick.”

One writer friend asked, despairingly, “Are any of you writing anymore? How are you managing to do it? How do you stop freaking out—how do you get your work done?”

For lack of a brilliant response of my own, I’ll quote Muriel Rukeyser again. I may need to keep reciting her poem about once a month, during the current U.S. presidency:

Muriel Rukeyser

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less inane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other.
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go of the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.

-- Muriel Rukeyser

#     #     #

I said earlier that I’ve been thinking about illness because of the current illness in the U.S. body politic. And that’s true. But another reason is that I’ll be having major surgery in about a week—surgery that, in a manner of speaking, is a result of my illness, the cancer I had, three years ago. I mention this partly because it may affect my keeping up with this blog in the near future, and also because I’d be grateful for any good thoughts or prayers you want to send my way next Friday, on the 10th of February.

Linda and me, a few days after my LAST
major surgery
(a double mastectomy, y'all).
The surgery—spoiler alert: it’s gonna get a little bit clinical now—is a hysterectomy, done for preventative measures. Since I’ve had breast cancer, I’m taking a hormone-related drug called Tamoxifen daily; while Tamoxifen is excellent for preventing a recurrence of breast cancer, it does mess with other parts of my bod. In particular, it has thickened my uterine walls and caused a small fibroid to become fairly large. I’ve already had tests showing that I do not have uterine or ovarian cancer, thank God, and my doctors are confident that the fibroid is not cancerous, either—that it has grown as a direct result of taking Tamoxifen. But it has grown, to the extent that it’s distorting my uterus, and my doctor says that in the long run, the hormone-related impact of Tamoxifen on a fibroid can sometimes cause cancer.

All the more reason to take it out now, he suggested, and I fully agree. Not to mention that, as someone who had early-onset breast cancer, I am now more at risk for ovarian cancer as well. Take it all out, I say! Ovaries, uterus, fibroid: the works.

I know that major surgery is never a walk in the park and that I will not be my best physical self (perhaps not my best emotional self, either) for the week or two following February 10th. But on the whole I am glad it is happening. On the whole it feels like a relief.

Also, this experience will no doubt give me material to use in future blog posts: what major surgery in the U.K. is like as compared to in the U.S. I’ll keep you all posted for sure. While one difference I already know of is that my family in the U.S. can’t hop on a plane to reach me this time, I do love this anecdote: When I first told my siblings about my upcoming surgery, my sister Sandy said to her husband, Steve, “Hey, maybe I can use my vacation time to run over there and be with Taylor while she recovers.”
Cindy and Sandy doing yoga
with me in Chicago, summer 2014

Steve had to smile and remind her that her current "vacation time" is actually a maternity leave; Sandy now has a two-month-old child.

But isn’t it a great instinctive response, nonetheless?

Someone's in need. What can I do?


[i] My father’s family, the Kings, is peopled with artists and dreamers; with pioneers and fishermen, with musicians and storytellers. I’ve been lucky, I think, to have both kinds of families—both broad orientations—in my family tree, in my life.

[ii] Wally King, I love you with all of my soul, but I think you’ll agree that you are generally more laidback than your sisters.