Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Church House

A house we lived in for a few months had been first a barn, then a church, and finally a duplex. One of my favorite books is Elizabeth Goudge’s Pilgrim’s Inn, the second in a trilogy about the Eliots. The story is of a family purchasing a house and discovering slowly that it had once been an inn for pilgrims and that a pantry had once been a chapel. The house, it is suggested, had such a holy atmosphere that the people who lived in it were protected and the marriage saved. The first novel of that trilogy was about a grandmother purchasing a house to make into a sanctuary for her children and grandchildren during World War Two.

When our daughter went away to university, we spruced up the bathroom, nothing extreme, just a new tub surround, wallpaper, and flooring. I thought how pleased she was going to be, but instead, she burst into tears, “I knew you would change everything while I was gone.” I felt that way myself when my parents’ house was purchased and renovated. The renovations were necessary and tastefully done, but the memory I had in my mind of a cozy, rosy interior was discombobulated.

I remember very little of living in the former church. My father repeated anecdotes of our living there, of the funny things my two year old brother did there, but I remember these repeated anecdotes, not the house itself. Our village had many lovely colonial and Victorian houses, but in fact the church/duplex was then and still is one of the two ugliest, poorest houses there. Five or six years after we left, a large family moved into one of the duplexes, and some of them are still living there. Although they were poor and rough around the edges, they appeared to be a happy family and much admired.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Baseball was big in my family, both sides. My father was named after Denton “Cy” Young. My mother’s mother listened to the ball games on the radio. I can remember sitting in her Morris chair listening to the game – I think I was three -- and wondering what the strange words meant. Later my mother became a fan. She knew everything about the Boston players – who they were married to, where they came from. She knew all the players in the minor leagues as well, so that when they came up to the majors, she already was familiar with them. My grandmother and Mrs. Butterfield would take the train to Boston once a year to see a game. Later my mother and Mrs. Larson would do the same thing. After a while, when money wasn’t so tight, they would go twice a year.

When we made our final move, we had room to play croquet, football, and baseball on the side yard. A woman whose brother lived next door was for many years the nanny for a wealthy, prominent Boston family. Occasionally she would bring the youngest of her charges to her brother’s for a few days. We caught a glimpse of what a wealthy life was like. Jimmy was watching my mother cook supper. He expressed surprise. “In my home, Carter does that.” Once he was on first base and someone got a hit. “Run home, Jimmy, run home.” We were surprised that he headed next door. He turned around with a stricken look on his face and said, “May I come back later?”

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Good Head for Words

We moved from Wilson Lane to Strawberry Hill. Across from us was the village ball field. Robin was too young and I was too unathletic to be allowed to play in the pickup games, but my mother solved the problem. She gave us food to distribute to the players – I remember oranges one time – and so we were allowed to play. I only remember being on base once, a magical moment. I stood there, worried that I wouldn’t do the right thing, but awfully pleased. One of the best ball players was an athletic, handsome teenager, Freddy. His brothers were athletic too. When I got to grade five, he was in grade six. Our school had two grades to a room. When I was in grade six, he was still in grade six and sat next to me, his long legs sticking out on the aisle because he couldn’t fit them under the desk. He asked for my help, and I gave it – I think were cheating, but I can’t be sure. This was the first time I realized the extent to which some people were less smart than I was. I knew I was considered smart. At one of the church minstrel shows, a joke was told that required the name of someone smart, and my name was used. But I hadn’t realized how dumb some people were. It seemed unfair to me, but I reconciled myself to the injustice by thinking how good he was at baseball and how handsome he was.

Bill was told the same anecdote by several people about how I had delivered a “piece” at the Christmas program when I was 18 months old. I suppose the event was even more dramatic because I was small for my age and could hardly walk. The story as told to me gave me to understand something about myself. I crawled up the stairs to the platform, stood unsteadily, looking around curiously, and delivered the words.

My father told me several times about talking to a man named LaPointe whose son was born within a few days of me. When we were a little older than a year, my father and LaPointe had a conversation about their kids. “Does your son walk?” “Yes, he’s been walking for a few months.” “My daughter doesn’t walk yet.” “Does she talk?” “Yes, she’s been saying words since she was six months old and talking in sentences since she was one.” “My son doesn’t talk yet.”

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Custard Pies

The story of the loss and regaining of identity is, I think, the framework of all literature.
Northrop Frye, quoted in today’s The New Brunswick Reader.

The first house I lived in only for a few months as a baby, with my grandfather and aunt Tempie on Wilson’s Lane. We then moved up the lane to the corner of Main Street, Swede’s Corner, so-called because a Swedish family lived in one of the houses. Of those three years, I have one extraordinary event stuck in my memory, but that experience might never have happened. We lived in a duplex and on the other side lived a distant relative, going senile, as my father told me years later when I recounted my recollection to him. The image in my memory is of going into her house, through a connecting door, and seeing many custard pies laid out on the floor, so that I had to tiptoe around them. My father could not remember the episode and wondered if I had dreamed it, or even if it were a hallucination. He remembered a high fever I had that made me delirious. He woke up hearing me crying. I had gone downstairs and was trying to get out the back door, thinking I had been left alone. I used the custard pie image in Flora, Write This Down.

My aunt kept another memory alive by telling me often when I got older that I would toddle down every morning to have coffee with her. She would imitate my baby lisping, “I’ll be down in the morning to have coffee wis ya.” I have duplicated this coffee with my grandchildren: a little coffee, milk, and a lot of sugar. My aunt Tempie played a big part in my and my brother’s childhood. She was one of those larger than life people that you remember vividly. There were many legends about her. Once when she was living in an apartment, a man burst in and threatened to kill her. They lay on the floor all night while she talked him out of it. The night before my cousin was born, in the Good Shepherd hospital, my aunt danced the Charleston to entertain the other girls there, sad because they were having babies out of wedlock. She had an indomitable spirit and a fierce temper, hence the nickname Tempie. Her real name was Thelma, and her mother called her Temmie, but after her mother died, and she showed her amazing temper, her father started to call her Tempie. She loved nature of all sorts. My brother became her favorite, “my bum” she called him, and he loved her dearly. His love of nature comes from walking in the woods with her, and his love of gardening comes from working in her garden.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

More rumination about blogging

My husband, Bill, has just written a response to a listserv about the use of letters in 18th century periodicals. The discussion is whether some letters to these periodicals were written by the editors or others using a fictional persona. He suggested that he expects blogs will soon be written by people with such a fictional guise. I have noticed that many writers create and sustain a carefully crafted persona. A male poet is a hard-drinking womanizing cad. A novelist is completely self-taught. A female journalist is tough as nails. A female poet is completely a-moral. I seem to have gravitated to the blogs written by sensitive, Christian, home-schooling mothers. I have just read a book by Forrest Church, a Unitarian minister. He presents himself as an Augustinian reformed drunkard. Several of the blogs I have been on suggest that the minister writing the blog has a drinking problem. “I too am human; I reformed, so can you.” People have told me that they would know my writing even if it weren’t signed, but I don’t know how they would. Whatever persona I have is uncrafted, unself-conscious. In this blog I am trying to figure out who I am and how I got that way, become more self-conscious.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Quote of the Day and More About Blogging

"Left handers have more enthusiasm for life. They sleep on the wrong side of the bed and their head gets stagnant on that side." Casey Stengle

An interesting essay about blogging by Sue Richard on the back page of today's Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail/factsandarguments

Monday, April 17, 2006

What's In A Blog?

I am trying to discover what elements of the blog as a literary genre make a successful one. The blog is not quite published raw diary, and yet not quite finely edited journal either. I have been looking at various blogs and can see that the personal should be there, to let a potential reader know he will be interested in what the blogger has to say, to let the reader hear the voice behind the posts. Some interesting information that a reader might find useful and the ability to connect what the blogger is saying about his personal life to the life of the reader can be there. I have written novels, short stories, and art journalism (profiles of artists and reviews of exhibits and books) – what elements do each of these have in common with a blog? Can a blog have narrative thrust, plot? I have sat in on several different writer’s groups where we read to each other what we have written the previous week, and this has lead to my ability to hear those writers’ voices behind what they have written. The newspaper stated last week that one blog is being constructed every second, so it stands to reason that there will be people out there whose interests I share. But how to find those blogs? May Sarton’s published journals read like a blog although you know they have been edited thoroughly. A blog has the advantage of being of the moment, unedited.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Visual Memory

One of my strongest visual memories of the three years we lived in the Wilson Lane house is something I could not have seen. The view out our kitchen window was of the hill beyond the valley created by Stony Brook. One Christmas morning my brother looked out that window and saw Santa Claus in his sleigh, skimming the top of the oaks and pines. He pointed this out to me, and then I could see it too. I can see it in my mind’s eye right now. A year later I was failing arithmetic, and Miss Sullivan pointed out to my parents that because I couldn’t see the blackboard, I had copied down the times tables incorrectly. What was I seeing in those years? When the eye doctor put on my glasses, he had me look out the fourth story window, and I was amazed to see the individual leaves of the trees.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Fears and Emotions

I was seven, I think, when a new acquaintance of my father came to visit us on the lane. It was summer, and I was out in the back yard on a blanket with my second cousin, Bruce, two years younger than me, who was teaching me to tie my shoes. The man came around back; I think there was another man with him. I knew he had been drinking, I knew my mother was afraid, and I knew somehow that her fright had to do with his being a man, something to do with sex, although I don’t think I knew the word. My father was away because at the time he was working two jobs, his day job teaching “bad boys” and his part-time night job being a commercial artist at the Boston Globe. My mother was exceptionally beautiful. I wish I could recall what she said to me, how I knew she was frightened. She was never very good at hiding her feelings.

That fall my cousin Gloria, seven years older, took it upon herself to make me beautiful. She did my hair up in metal curlers which I was to sleep on. My head hurt, and I couldn’t sleep. My mother usually did my thin mousy hair in pigtails. In the morning when I went to pick up Gloria on the way to school, she fixed my hair and applied deep red lipstick. I used the incident in my first published novel. I wonder what the second grade teacher, Miss McEnaney, thought.

I would walk the mile to school with Gloria and her friends. In the winter I was warned not to take the shortcut on the ice across Stony Brook. I was also supposed to stay with Gloria. She and her friends were going to go across the ice. I remember the crossing very well, the ethical dilemma, combined with the fright and the thrill of the forbidden.

One day on the way home, I got into a fight with the new girl, Ava. We were on the sidewalk, wrestling. She was pulling my hair, and I was about to give up. One of the older boys unloosed her grip on my hair. I won the fight, but I realized what an unfair victory it had been. Poor Ava, friendless, should have won. I gave up fighting after that except for once. In the school yard, someone came hollering to me, “Nancy, Robin is getting beat up.” I ran to the fight, waded in, so furious that I felt no pain from the blows. I was screaming, a wild woman. The poor boy retreated. I remember thinking afterwards of the strangeness of my not feeling my opponent’s blows.

Once when my children were little, a car and a motorcycle were racing up our short street. I looked up to see my daughter on the sidewalk, and I became terrified that she would step off it without looking. I took off running after the car and the motorcycle, and when they stopped, about seven houses away, the man was just getting off the cycle, the woman just opening the car door. I had run an impossible race, far beyond my physical ability. On the way back down the street, I remembered the time I had beat up the school yard bully.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Images that Reverberate from Childhood

The period of my childhood that comes back to me most vividly and in more detail is from six to eight years old. So many parts of me came alive then: memory, imagination, mysticism. When I told the members of our writers’ group this, one of the women said that the memoir she is writing about her uncle’s farm is from that age too.

During that period my father got a better paying, exciting job. I had my tonsils out. My grandfather died. The war started. I discovered the pleasure of roaming in the woods. I learned to tie my shoes. During that period too, we went tenting with friends in the White Mountains, on the Mad River.

I was seven and a half when the war started, and it affected my family only in a positive way. Several of the artists in the art room of the Boston Globe were drafted, and my father was able to get a job replacing one of them. Because he was 31 and had two children, he was classified one A only near the end of the war. My uncles were drafted, friends of the family were, but that meant only that when they came home on leave, my brother and I got to wear their uniform jackets and hats and get our photographs taken. I wrote to my uncle, and he sent letters and presents from the Pacific islands.

I remember being given ether and ice cream when I had my tonsils out but remember little else of the experience. What I do remember is sitting on the front porch of the house we were living in at the time and my father coming home with surprises. He had received his first paycheck from the Globe and gone out to buy us treats. I don’t remember what he bought me or Robin, but I can recall in great detail what he bought my mother: two red plaid skirts and a red dress with a black velvet bib top. Looking back on it, I think that my mother must have been disappointed not to be able to pick out the clothes herself. She said to me, “Isn’t that just like your father, to buy two red plaid skirts.” Three years later she had a serious operation, and she expressed a desire for plant pots. For Christmas my father bought perhaps 20 plant pots, of all descriptions. One was in the form of a woman’s shoe; one was a woman’s hand with red polish on the fingernails. I remember that that even at the time I realized these were not at all to her taste. She liked antiques, she liked rose, not red.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


On Saturday I went to a super workshop on writing memoirs. Prodded by the instructor, Beth Powning, I was surprised that my head clicked onto something new about the memoir I have been writing in trying to figure out how I became the person I am now. I realized that the most influential period of my childhood was from the age of 6 to 8 when we moved to the house at the end of Wilson Lane. It ran off the main street of our village, finally ending at the canal and Stony Brook. There were three houses on the lane, the first being my paternal grandfather’s. My aunt, uncle and cousin lived with him. Between our house and theirs was a house that had kids my brother’s and my ages. Benny became my brother’s best friend. He had an impediment in his speech, and my brother was the only one who could understand him. Across the lane from our house was a barn. A path led into the fields and woods. Further down an incline was Stony Brook and the canal that flowed out of it. The canal had a house we called the Red House, which must have controlled the flow of water out of Stony Brook. Where the canal began, we could see a whirlpool, which we were much afraid of. There was a bridge over the waterfall at Stony Brook and up over that was the railroad track. Across the tracks, a hill led up into another woods and finally onto the ball field. I have been writing furiously under this inspiration, but now stop to post this explanation for my silence of the past few days.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Too Much Information?

A review in the NYTimes of a new book, Programming the Universe, discusses Seth Lloyd’s theory that the universe is becoming more and more complex, that more and more cosmic information begets this complexity. The review ends with these words, “information as thread that binds past and future so that nothing is ever truly gone – not a great idea, not a great man, not even love itself.” If this were true, it could explain why I keep all the information I do – letters, articles, clippings, books I will never read. The information in my grandmother’s chest binds me to her, even though she died when my father was three. My mother’s letters bind her to my grandchildren even though she died when my children were young. To live with increasing complexity, information, and uncertainty requires such a lot of energy. My father said he didn’t agree with Thoreau’s idea of a simple life. I don’t either, although the temptation to chuck all this stuff and go live in a cabin in the woods is certainly great. My husband, struggling with the three Saturday newspapers, just hollered up, “There’s all kind of interesting stuff to read.”

Friday, April 07, 2006

Inheriting the Memorabilia Gene

Religion consists in believing that everything which happens is extraordinarily important. Cesare Pavese

At our writers group yesterday we took up the subject of the tug of war that goes on between spouses. My suspicions were reinforced that many spouses have this tug of war: "You are messy so I will straighten your mess out. No, you are the messy one. Leave my well-organized, important stuff alone."

The house my parents bought had a two story barn and another outbuilding we euphemistically named "the studio." In the studio went my father’s boxes of clippings and his art supplies. The barn was the carriage house kind of barn found in towns. Into it went my father’s woodworking paraphernalia. My mother didn’t keep tidy drawers; she stuffed them full. Only one of these was called "the messy drawer." "Where is the such and such?" "Look in the messy drawer." I too established a messy drawer in my house.

Their new house began to fill up with books. My dad made brick and board bookcases everywhere. It is difficult, if not impossible, to have a tidy, dust-free house when you have many books. When my brother was lugging all the books out of the house, he discovered that the dust had become like pieces of felt.

The boxes of my father’s clippings, cut from magazines, were meant to provide him with prototypes for his watercolors. When his friends moved us into the new house, they were full of jokes about how happy they were to be moving the clippings for the last time. I don’t know what happened to those clippings. I too have clippings, a large file cabinet full, plus boxes and boxes, stored in the basement in what I call "the archives room." There are interesting articles about far eastern Russia, the Silk Road, religion, interviews with writers, stories from the New Yorker, quotations I liked. Every time anyone of us was in the newspaper, I clipped that too.

My mother kept our school papers, especially arithmetic. I have been going through them. I can’t bear to throw them out, but of what earthly use are they? During the war years, the teacher cut 8X10 paper into small pieces. I feel warm and fuzzy towards the grade one Nancy Ruth who struggled to contain her name and date within the confines of those tiny pieces of paper. I too saved memorabilia from my children’s school years.

Gradually we have become the repository for the papers of both my husband’s and my families. Some years ago I inherited a trunk that had belonged to my paternal grandmother. Inside were a 100 letters, memorabilia, two diaries, and many clippings cut from newspapers, including jokes and cartoons: a treasure trove. I typed all the letters and diaries into the computer so my cousins could have copies. I have all the letters my mother wrote to me, and some day I will transcribe those too.

I solved part of the problem of what to do with all this stuff by donating my archives pertaining to artists and writers I have known to the university library, 28 banker boxes full. Lucky them.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Creating a Sanctuary

Language is a means of exploration. When you explore, you don’t want to get somewhere familiar to you. It doesn’t need to be a place where no man has ever been, but it must be sufficiently unknown not to be cut and dried. (Walker Percy) When I finished writing this post, I realized I had come to a different conclusion than I thought I would.

In the first nine years of my life, we lived in nine houses in the same village. I remember something about each one of them. In the one we lived in the shortest time, I only remember a cubbyhole under the stairs. Once I asked my aunt why we had moved so often. She seemed surprised at the question. She said that we rented houses that were for sale, that my mother (with my aunt’s help) would paint and wallpaper and make the place so lovely that it would soon be sold. At last my parents were able to buy a late Victorian house which my mother transformed into a warm, welcoming, beautiful home. The day before she slipped into a coma from which she never returned, she went around tearing wallpaper off the den in a frenzy to get it re-done. Two months after she died, I went with my family to comfort my father, and my husband helped him put on the wallpaper she had chosen.

Creating a home and creating a family are the two most important constructions most of us will ever make. I don’t think I ever felt disoriented when we moved because like the snail we carried our house with us: my mother’s aesthetics, the intense love both my parents radiated towards me. I have never had as much pleasure in creating a home as my mother had. For one thing the house that we bought 40 years ago has been a source of tug of war with my husband, and I soon gave up the struggle, evolving an ambiguous pleasure/pain relationship with it. I just realized that the central characters of my novels (all women) don’t take much delight in their houses either. I do remember that when we were buying the house, I wanted a new, small house rather than a big Victorian one because I didn’t want to be as completely devoted to it as my parents were. My father was an artist, but he gave up painting when they bought the house, putting all his spare time and effort into renovation. I wanted to write novels and was afraid that devotion to a house would interfere with that. Perhaps my mother too had this ambiguous attitude to her houses: all that work on eight of them before she had one of her own, her vision constrained by a lack of money. Perhaps many women have this feeling. Women’s magazines and TV house programs present an ideal that can never be emulated and that must be frustrating.

A further paradox is that I fervently believe in the great value there is in constructing a home to shelter the family. Several of my favorite books deal with the importance of houses as sanctuaries, The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard and the Eliots of Damerosehay trilogy by Elizabeth Goudge among them.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

more doorways

Most of us can remember the strangely moving power of passages in certain poems read when we were young, irrational doorways as they were through which the mystery of fact, the wildness and the pang of life, stole into our hearts and thrilled them.
William James

I have just finished re-reading “The Land of the Wee-Uns,” one of the six stories in The Listen to Me Stories, and if I remember correctly, my favorite. I could almost recapture the feeling I had when I first read it: delight in that hidden world of tiny people living in a mountain under the sea. Why had the story so enthralled me? Was it because I was experiencing another world for the first time and thus could look at my own world with new eyes? The story is about a boy who sets out from the coast of Scotland and is marooned there. He was heartbroken to be separated from his mother and father, and yet he eventually became happy and content. James goes on to write about experiencing in arts the “vague vistas of a life continuous with our own, beckoning and inviting, yet ever eluding our pursuit. We are alive or dead to the eternal inner message of the arts according as we have kept or lost this mystical susceptibility.” One of the great joys I have in writing novels is constructing other worlds. The Wee-Uns are sweeter than we giants are. My constructed worlds are peopled with sweet characters, a flaw perhaps.

In my novel Wise-Ears, the main character writes stories. For one of these stories, to get the right voice and style, I read Granny’s Wonderful Chair out loud. Years ago, on one of his visits my father brought me a chair that looks like the one in the book’s illustration. The chair is of no earthly use, uncomfortable and awkward, but I love it nonetheless.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Irrational Doorways

Most of us can remember the strangely moving power of passages in certain poems read when we were young, irrational doorways as they were through which the mystery of fact, the wildness and the pang of life, stole into our hearts and thrilled them.
William James

My father brought us used books from a place in Boston called Morgan Memorial. I remember the name well since it was the source of treasures, but I didn’t know what it was until I looked it up on the internet. It is a place where “unwanted household goods” were made serviceable by people with disabilities. One of these books was my favorite: The Listen to Me Stories by Alicia Aspinwall. Another of my favorites was Granny’s Wonderful Chair by Frances Browne. The inscription in that book is “Nuzzo to Mr. L.” I think Nuzzo was one of my father’s charges in the school where he taught woodworking to boys who had got in trouble with the law, truancy mostly but also petty thefts. I don’t know why Nuzzo gave my father a book.

Alicia is not as well-known as Frances, partly I think, because Granny’s Wonderful Chair contained "The Christmas Cuckoo", widely-anthologized in Christmas story books. Perhaps she was a better storyteller, but she also had a more dramatic biography. She was blind, the result of smallpox in her childhood, and came from a family of 12 in Ireland. I think Alicia was an American, but I can’t find anything more about her. She wrote a moralizing story about the use of the word “please” also anthologized.

Until I started writing this, I hadn’t fully realized that these two books were products of the nineteenth century. The Listen to Me Stories was first published in 1897, but my copy is a 1910 reprint. Granny’s Wonderful Chair was published in 1856.

Both of these books, I also just realized, were told by a recognizable storyteller. In Granny’s Wonderful Chair, the chair tells the stories. “Chair of my grandmother, tell me a story.” That the title of The Listen to Me Stories implied a storyteller, I understood and I even imagined the storyteller.

I thought I could finish this exploration without having to reread the stories, but I realize I can’t. What did I find in these stories that so affected me?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Saturday, April 01, 2006


My brother and I were born in our grandparents’ bed. Many other babies were born there too, because my grandmother had a kind of lying-in hospital in her home. She was what we might now call a midwife, but that wasn’t what she called herself. In fact, she didn’t give herself a title, but my aunt calls her “the first woman libber.” I wonder if there were other such establishments around or if my grandmother’s was unusual. A doctor was always present at the births.

My aunt, twelve when I was born, remembers the day very well. My father was out in the backyard burning something in an oil drum, and she wondered what that was. Only years later did she know that he was burning the afterbirth. I used this strong image in my most recent, unpublished novel.

Although many babies were born there, not one of the mothers ad an infection. My aunt tells me this with irony because when she was to have her first baby, the doctor insisted that she go to the hospital and not have her baby at her mother’s , and in the hospital she got a dreadful infection. My grandmother would change the sheets twice a day for the week the woman would stay and boil them with other things on the black iron stove in a large oval copper boiler.
The day I was born was the hottest on record, I have been told. I have tried to verify that, but no amount of googling got me the information. I will have to be content with the unquestionable fact that it was very hot and that she was on the second floor where it would have been even hotter. Did the fact that I first faced the world on an unusually hot day affect me? I have always been susceptible to heat, much preferring to be cold than warm. My normal body temperature is low, about 97 rather than the usual 98.6.

My brother, on the other hand, was born in a blizzard. I have tried to verify that also, to no avail. He has always had the energy of a storm.
My mother was given ether by the doctor. I have wondered if that was the norm for the time. My brother and I are left-handed; my parents were right-handed. Our handwriting is awful. I am clumsy. Was there some brain damage at birth because of the ether? Our verbal skills are better than our other skills. We both have God holes. Did the right side of our brain get a little damaged? However, two of my three children are left-handed, as is my husband, so perhaps there was a strong gene there that somehow had been quashed because people were encouraged to be right-handed.

I myself had ether twice, once when I had my tonsils out at six, once when I had a miscarriage. I remember the two occasions vividly, being asked to count out loud slowly.
The doctor who delivered us and who tended us afterwards was a woman. Doctor Frisby would stop at our house often. Some years ago when I was asking my father about her, he said that she lived with another woman, and he always wondered whether she was a lesbian. My mother was beautiful, and he thought the doctor may have been attracted to her. He never told my mother of his suspicion.

The births of my own babies were the most profound experiences of my life, and needless to say, changed it as no other experience has ever or will ever do. Except, perhaps, the last one.