Wednesday, December 7, 2016


      To the right of this screen are labels (titles) that describe many events in a very long life, such as the airplane accidents my husband and I had a week apart -- mine first, wherein I found myself upside-down in my plane in a brier patch.  Click on "ALOFT" to read about this and other flying adventures.  "AFLOAT" includes a description of the day our boat sank under us when we were cruising with friends.
     "ED BOATGUY concerns the captain's predilection for aquatic mishaps, which I dutifully recorded in the log of the Happy Days. Cartoonist Darrell McClure, of Little Annie Rooney fame, captured the action in his sketches for my Yachting magazine articles. 
     "When is Ed getting the divorce?" friends wanted to know.
     "ABOUT LOVE SEX AND AGING" is based on letters exchanged with friend and author Edward M. Brecher (An Analysis of Human Sexual Response), who edited "Rescuing the Old Buzzard."  This saga ended up in my memoir, Take My Ex-Husband, Please -- But Not Too Far (published by Little Brown in 1991), starring Ed and second wife Aliceann and their six cats and two dogs, all of whom were invited to move into our daughter Kathie's hastily constructed garage apartment after business reverses necessitated the sale of their Florida home.
     "She's a saint," said her father.  I couldn't have agreed more.
     "BRIDGE DRAMAS" will strike a chord with anyone who plays the challenging game of duplicate bridge.  If the mantra "It's only a game, it's only a game, it's only a game" is repeated often enough, you may eventually believe it.  On the other hand, did you hear the one about the wife who shot her husband (and bridge partner) between his unfairly critical eyes?  And was acquitted?


February 28, 2013
I have received so many comments, most of them referring to my suggestions on publishing chronologically, it will take me a long time to respond. Meanwhile I am very very very grateful for your feedback, some of which was sent in early January but I never saw until now.
With warm regards to each and every one of you,
P.S.  African Mango, thank you for your much appreciated words. I loved the adjective "fantastic" applied to my blog.

 You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find thіs topіc 
tо be гeallу something which I think I would nеver understand. It ѕeеmѕ too
сomplicateԁ and  bгoaԁ for me. I'm looking forward to your next post,
I will try to get the hang of it for my own blog.
Reply:  Yes, it is complicated but if a blogger is sufficiently motivated, 
publishing a series of posts is not impossible and the rewards come with
comments like yours. I checked on your website and can see it would
make great sense for someone who needed to lose some weight.  I was
over-weight just four times in my life.  Nature gifted me with two boys
and two girls, cleverly alternating them: GBGB.
Thank you for looking forward to my next post.  This is it.
Comment March 1, 2013
Good day!  This is my 1st сοmment here so I just wanted tо givе
a quiсk shout out anԁ ѕay I truly еnjoy reading thгough your
pοstѕ. Can you suggest аny otheг blogѕ/websites/forums that deal
wіth the same subjeсts?
Thаnks а lоt! 
Reply:  Thank you for your shout-out. To answer your question, 
my blog is actually a memoir based on journal entries and hundreds
 of letters saved over the decades, so it is unique in that sense. 
Anonymous February 26, 2013 at 12:03 PM
Greetingѕ I am so hapру Ӏ found your webѕitе, I reаlly found you 
by mistake, while Ι wаs searching on Αskjeeves for sоmething elsе.
Anyway I am heгe now аnԁ would just like to ѕaу kudos for a
remarkable post and an all round entertaining blog. (I also love
the theme/design.)  I don’t have time to read through it all at the 
moment but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds, so 
when I have time I will be back to read much more.  Please do 
keep up the awesome job. 
Hi there Anonymous. You can read in Wikipedia about my mother
 -- children's poet Ernestine Cobern Beyer -- and you will find that
she credits Jeeves (the butler in P. G. Wodehouse novels) with giving
her subconscious mind whole stanzas and titles -- for instance,
Birthington's Washday.*
This is why I got a big kick out of hearing that you accidentally found
me when you consulted Askjeeves.
Comment: Hey verу interesting blog!  Stoρ bу mу web site : video 
Reply: I did stop by for a visit and can see that you have a lot going
on there. Thank you so much for calling my blog interesting. My son
Tim was the one who suggested it when he saw how disappointed I
was with yet another rejection of a manuscript submitted to a publisher.
I bless him daily for making my older years so exciting and fulfilling.
March 3, 2012
уou're really a excellent webmaster. The website loading pace is amazing. It 
sort of feels like you'гe doіng some distinctive trick. In aԁdition, the cοntents 
аrе a masterρiеcе. You've done a wonderful process in this matter! Also visit 
my webpage; internet radio.
Reply: I never expected to see the word "masterpiece" in connection
with my blog.  You have made not just my day but the rest of my life!
I'll copy and paste this exchange so I can show it to daughter Kathie.
I Googled internet radio but didn't know which site was associated
with you.  I'll try to figure it out.
                                      *Birthington's Washday
                       Birthington Biddle (his friends called him Bertie)
                       Would have been nice if he hadn't been dirty.                              
                       So grubby and grimy was Birthington's face,
                       His appearance, alas, was a perfect disgrace.

                      You see, he believed soap and water were poison,
                      And tubs were for clothes--not to wash little boys in.
                      Crusted with dust which flew up from the street,
                      He grew heavier, daily, and slower of feet.
                      And though his poor mother could hardly endure him,                              
                      She couldn't, it seemed, either change him or cure him.

                      On the day he turned ten, Bertie found to his shame,
                      He could no longer run or take part in a game.
                      Just one final cinder, just one speck of dust
                      Had at last overburdened the weight of his crust.

                      Yes sir, one speck had stopped Bert in his track                            
                      Just as one final straw broke the poor camel's back.
                      Unable to move, Bertie let out a yelp . . .
                      A mud-smothered holler: "Help, Mother, help, help!"

                      Mrs. Biddle came running, and seizing a hose,
                      She hastily soused him from cowlick to toes.
                      The water gushed out in a glorious squirt,
                      And merrily melted his coating of dirt.
                      Thank goodness, that crust which had made him look fat
                      Was banished forever in two minutes flat!
                       His mother was filled with unspeakable joy
                       As she gazed at her clean little lean little boy        
                      This was a day she would never forget --
                      His birthday!  The day Dirty Bertie got wet!
                      The gurgle-and-slosh day, that sputter-and-splosh day,
                       Known in the village as Birthington's Washday!

                                                              by Ernestine Cobern Beyer

                                                               Grace Lawrence


     It is now a long time since I first started publishing series of posts and several months since I started sharing what I'd learned with other bloggers.  There is a faster way to do this chronologically.  For example, if you have six posts ready to go, start with #6, the one dated most recently (the last shall be first) and click on Edit.  This will bring you to (at very top of page.) Then click on Revert to draft above the post.  Click on that label name..  You will see that "Publish" is highlighted.  Click on Publish and the post will immediately go on its way.  Click on Close, which will return you to your six posts.  Follow this procedure with numbers 5 4 3 2 1 and your published series will end up as 123456. Trust me.  This works beautifully and will save you a lot of time. You can also easily schedule your posts for publication at a later time.
Update May 25, 2013
     Yesterday I republished a long series of posts with the label Afloat and Ashore. It was supremely simple to do.  All I had to do was change the date on the previous scheduling process. . . . a tip for other bloggers who decide to republish a series.


Circa November 2013
     I have been feeling discouraged since my car willfully bumped up over a curb, not just once but three times in a row.  Getting the message at age 92, I have given up driving for the duration.
                                    When to hang up your car keys. . . .

      It's likely that many of you don't realize you can take an active part in seeing these posts by clicking on their labels to the right of your screen.  For instance, are you interested in flying adventures?  Click on "ALOFT," which is among the alphabetized labels   Do you love or tolerate animals, such as a rambunctious goat?  Click on "ANIMAL TALES."  Are you a naive wife whose husband has been cheating for years?   In "ADRIFT," suicide is considered first, then murder.

October 22, 2015
      I am happy to see that several of today's visitors have done exactly what I suggested above, stopping by not only on the current post (Attention Visitors) but also clicking on other topics to the right of that post. Tomorrow I have an appointment with my audiologist to pick up my new hearing aids.  My daughter-in-law, Kathy, is taking me there.  Will let you know when I return if they work well enough to eliminate the question "What?" from my vocabulary.

November 21, 2015
       The hearing aids work very well.  And they thoughtfully let me know when a new battery is needed by playing the opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.  


Don’t kid yourself. It ain’t over yet.
Posted on December 1, 2015 by kathiemm
Note to visitors: Kathie Malley-Morrison is my amazing daughter.  An auto accident in 1965 when she was 25 resulted in a wheelchair life. Undaunted, she obtained her Master's degree and her Doctorate and became a psychology professor at B U.  Do go to the Internet and check out her very worthwhile blog at
     Thanksgiving is not over, at least not for me. I’m still giving thanks—not for all the benefits that come with white privilege, because they come at too high a cost for too many others—but for the people of all colors who fight for, work for, and live and die for peace. Today, when rabid voices howl with cries for war in countless caves across the nation, I give thanks to the volunteers for what is probably the longest peace vigil in US history—the White House Peace Vigil. This vigil began in 1981 as an anti-nuclear weapon vigil led by William Thomas, who was soon joined by Concepcion (“Connie”) Picciotto. Picciotto, an immigrant who arrived in the United States at the age of 18, has been described as “carrying on the longest continuous act of political protest in the United States.”    
     Now in her 70s, Piccioto has spent most of her time for over three decades in the “peace camp” —a white tent pitched in Lafayette Square across from the White House. She generally wears a helmet, because, she tells passersby, she has been hit in the head so often—generally by police. In 2013, when one of the volunteers left the tent area unguarded, the park police removed it. It was soon reinstalled and the vigil continues.     

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology


                                              Bringing Up Mother

                                 My children don't purposely pain me.
                                 They mean to be patient, I know,
                                 As gently but firmly they train me
                                 In the way that a mother should go.

                                 They say my illusions are many;
                                 They smile at the things I believe.
                                 (My reasoning process (if any),
                                 They laughingly label naive.

                                 Do you think I resent them?  No, never.
                                 I accept all the training they give,
                                 For I hope to be modern and clever
                                 By the time that I die--if I live!
                                                                                Ernestine Cobern Beyer

      Ernestine saved the letters I sent her about her grandchildren’s antics, returning them in batches every few weeks. Example Summer 1950: Timmy stopped digging in the sand and stared at a buxom newcomer to Sandy Cove. She unfolded a chair and sat down nearby. She had more cleavage than he had ever seen in his life, arousing his curiosity and prompting a question: “Lady, is that your bottom?”
­February 4, 1947
     Esther's day off is by far the most arduous of the week. l worry about my impending trial for the three days preceding it, and it takes three more to recover. Last Thursday was typical.
     At 6:45 a.m. I am jolted awake by my alarm clock. I hasten to throttle it lest it disturb my sleeping spouse. Routine requires that he must not arise until eight o'clock. This ensures his arrival in the kitchen at 8:25, just in time to drop Kathie at the bus-stop.
     I give Timmy his bottle after handing Kathie and Teddy their school outfits and shooing them downstairs, cautioning them not to wake Vonnie with their chatter. Nevertheless, weird noises float up from the kitchen. I rush downstairs and beg them to lower their voices. Experience has taught me that the presence of a
spirited two-year-old is of no assistance in preparing her two siblings for school. I tear upstairs again, bubble Timmy, change his diaper, brush my teeth, and then return to the fray in the kitchen.
     I get breakfast with one eye on the clock, the other on Kathie and Teddy, struggling into shoes and pulling on shirts. While the children are eating, I fix Kathie’s lunch and braid her hair. Then she must have her hands and face washed, bib off, leggings and boots on.
     If my timing is perfect, Ed walks in just as Kathie is putting on her jacket and cap.
     I kiss them goodbye, push them out the door, tell Teddy to finish getting dressed, and dash up to the third floor to get Vonnie up. Dressing her quickly, I hurry downstairs to help Teddy get his outdoor clothing on. His teacher blows the horn, and off goes another child for a few hours, thank heavens.
     Vonnie has breakfast while I squeeze Timmy’s orange juice and finish my chores in the kitchen. Then we go upstairs where I make beds and straighten rooms from nine to nine-thirty, when it’s time for Timmy’s orange juice, bath, and bottle. While I take care of him, Vonnie bounces on beds and unstraightens rooms.
     At 10:30 I prop up with a blanket what’s left in Timmy’s bottle and get his sister ready for her nap. I return to Timmy, bubble him, and put him back in his crib. Now I have one whole hour to myself. I have no laundry to do, no housework, yet already I am exhausted. So what do I do? I lie down for a minute and fall into a deep sleep, interrupted immediately, it seems, by the sound of an automobile horn. Teddy is home from nursery school, soon followed by Kathie.
    Once in awhile the weather is nice enough for the kids to play outdoors. Once in a very great while I am able to persuade them to do so. Ten minutes later, wet and cold, they pound at the door. Off come mittens, caps, boots, jackets, snow pants, and mufflers, everything sopping, zippers sticking, noses running. I promise them that if they are very good while I give Timmy his 2:30 bottle, we will do something nice. I cuddle Timmy and try to think of something nice and not too strenuous.
    When I return to the kitchen, the matter has been settled: I have a major role in cops `n’ robbers. For an hour I am killed and brought to life again by my indefatigable playmates. The game continues while I get dinner, as tricky a stunt as Eliza crossing the ice. I dodge fire-engines, duck airplanes, step over dead bodies, and still have dinner on the table by five o-clock. By 6:40 the children are bathed and ready for bed. Kathie is allowed to play in her room for awhile, providing she is quiet. She reads and talks to herself in a whisper.
     I collapse on the bench in front of my vanity table. A wild-eyed apparition stares back at me from the mirror. Summoning up my last few ounces of strength, I perform a miracle. When Ed arrives fifteen minutes later, I am showered and dressed, combed and brushed, perfumed and powdered.
    “Hello, honey, did you have a tough day?” he asks.
     “Kind of,” I sigh, sinking into the living-room chair.
     We have cocktails and dinner, I stack the dishes, and then I haven’t a thing to do until it’s time for Timmy’s bottle at 9:00. Goodness, it’s 9:00 now! Timmy is fed, changed, and tucked into bed. He is already asleep, and I wonder what made him so tired.
     There is just one thing I want to know: how did grandmother, who had six children, field hands, a husband to feed, and no help, ever get her chores done?
    At midnight I hear Esther’s car turn into the driveway. Doomsday is over.
April 22, 1947
    I’ve sent Mother a picture of the Malley family in Ed’s convertible. It's the first one ever taken of all six of us. In another picture, Teddy is loving Timmy, not throttling him, as it may appear. I never thought boisterous little Teddy would prove to be such a tender, gentle big brother.
     When Esther and her daughter Jacquie first joined our family, Esther asked Kathie why she called her grandmother "Isha."  Kathie looked at her in astonishment and answered, "Because that's her name!"
    Yesterday Esther asked Teddy, “Who’s that man getting out of the car?”
    “Our father,” he said.
    “Who art in heaven,” Kathie added.
    “He’s not in heaven. He’s married to our mother.”
    Thanks, Teddy.
    When Teddy’s nursery school teacher called for him this morning, she admired his new spring coat and hat. She was taken aback when he swept off the hat, bowed low, and said good-morning. He learned this gallantry in Sunday School last week.
November 6, 1947
    Teddy came down with chicken pox the day after Halloween. Vonnie got it the following day, and Timmy the day after that. The baby’s case is light so far, but Teddy and Vonnie are covered with red, itchy sores. The doctor said the only relief for the itching is baby oil. Vonnie cries, “Put the oil-it baby on me!”
    Sunday night Teddy came wailing to the head of the stairs.
    “What’s the matter, dear?” his father called.
    “I dropped the baby oil,” Teddy wept.
    “That’s all right, don’t worry about it.”
    “But I dropped it on my toe!”
December 21, 1947
    I enjoy eavesdropping on the children’s conversations; their young minds work so unpredictably.
    Kathie’s friend: “I have a puppy.”
    Kathie: “Oh, if it’s a girl, can I have a puppy when it grows up?”
    Friend: “I don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl. If it’s a girl you can have a puppy. My puppy is white.”
    Kathie: “I like white horses.”
    Teddy: “Yellow is my favorite color.”
December 26, 1947
    My seven-year-old daughter loves “The Littlest Angel,” but Teddy won’t listen to it because it's “too sad.” Kathie told me some of the children in school say there isn’t any Santa Claus. She said with a patronizing laugh that when she was little, she didn’t believe in Santa Claus either, but now she knows better.
    This year I labeled two or three packages "From Daddy" and "From Mommy," so we wouldn’t be accused of failing to give the children any presents, as we were last year. I gave Kathie a Dy-Dee doll that drinks, wets, and blows bubbles. Kathie brought a wet diaper for me to see.
    ”I had to change her. I’m going to hang this up to dry. Of course it’s only water.”
    She repeated this observation at least three times. I think she was hoping I’d contradict her, but I had to agree it was only water.
    While Kathie was caring for her child, Teddy watched her impatiently. She had interrupted a game of cowboys and Indians, and they were both dressed in character.
    ”Don’t forget we’re cowboys and cowgirls,” he reminded her.
    “Well, I’m a mother, too,” said Kathie, her cowboy hat at a jaunty angle as she put another diaper on her doll.
January 12, 1948
Doomsday again.
    To start with, Teddy was grouchy and uncooperative about getting ready for school. I bribed him by promising him a surprise after lunch if he would cheer up. Then, on this day of all days, the nursery school teacher had car trouble and was an hour late. After rushing to get Teddy and Vonnie ready by 8:30, I waved a weak goodbye at 9:30. I bathed Timmy, put him in his crib, and made the beds while he rocked his head back and forth and murmured, "Mmmm, mmmm," his way of falling asleep.
    Before lunch I went to the hall closet to get some modeling clay for the promised surprise. The clay came in colored sections that looked like Tootsie Rolls. After their lunch I gave Teddy and Vonnie a piece to work with while I fed Timmy. A few minutes later a little hand tapped me on the knee.
    “Me doesn’t wike it!” Vonnie said.
    After breathlessly examining the box of clay and finding the phrase “non-poisonous,” I explained that the surprise was meant to be played with, not eaten. I took the time to model a worm for her.
    When Kathie got home she asked me what she could do to help, dear thoughtful child that she is.
    “How about straightening your room and doing a real thorough job of it?”
    “Couldn’t I polish the silver or vacuum the rugs?”
    If she truly wanted to help me, I said, she’d tidy up her disgraceful-looking room.
    “All right, all right, all right!” Her pride was hurt at being reprimanded like a two-year-old. “You don’t have to be mean about it. I’ll do my room tomorrow.”
    After supper I put the baby to bed and gave Vonnie a bath. Then I went to check on Kathie and Teddy’s progress. They were in Kathie’s room, mysteriously engaged behind closed doors. A sign warned: “BEWAR. DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT NOKING. DO NOT ENTER ANYWAY.” I knocked.
    ”Don’t come in!” they cried.
    “Why can’t I come in? What are you doing?”
    “Nothing,” said Teddy. “We’re not cleaning up the room, we’re messing it up more.”
    “You’d better not!” I said in my sternest voice.
    I returned to Vonnie’s room to read her a story and tuck her into bed, then called Kathie and Teddy to their baths. No answer. When I opened Kathie’s door, I found the room dark and soundless. Switching on the light, I gave a loud gasp—the children were in bed, sound asleep, and all that clutter on the floor had been transferred to the tops of bureaus and tables.
    “This must be magic!”I exclaimed. “Yes, that’s it! The fairies have been here and put my children under a spell and cleaned up the room. This is wonderful!  Now Kathie and Teddy will do anything I ask them to.”
    Carried away by the drama, I waved my arm and quoth: “Arise, children, take off your clothes and get into the tub.”
    Gleefully they sprang out of bed and threw off their bathrobes to reveal that they were ready for their baths. They doubled up with laughter as I gaped at the miracle. They scrambled into the tub with unheard of eagerness. Teddy asked me to wash his back.
    “I’d be glad to. I’d do anything for such wonderful children.”
    A few minutes later Kathie asked Teddy to pass the soap, please.
    “I’d be glad to, Kathie.”
    The bath over, Kathie was struck by a disconcerting thought. “Be sure to tell Esther about the fairies, Mummy. She might think we were being good on purpose.”
    I cleaned up the bathroom while the children got into their nightclothes. I wondered if I had gone too far in stimulating their imaginations. This world is such a difficult place for even an adult to understand, was it right to plant untruths in their trusting minds? A reassuring conversation drifted through the open door.
    Teddy, the Skeptic: “Does Mummy really believe the fairies did it?”
    Kathie, the Credulous: “Shh, of course she does. And tomorrow we can fool Esther, too.”
February 6, 1948
    My Purgatory yesterday was nearer heaven than hell. The children were unusually good, and their unintentional humor kept me entertained all day. However, a bad moment occurred in the morning. The nursery-school teacher had picked Vonnie up, and Kathie and Teddy were at the end of the driveway, waiting for the bus. It was snowing and very cold out, so when the bus didn’t show up after fifteen minutes, the children trudged back to the house.
    Afraid that the bus might come and go without them, I said, “You two march right back there and wait.” Then I added a desperate threat. “If you miss that bus, I won’t let you in the house. You’ll have to stay out in the cold all day.”
    They gave me deeply reproachful looks as they turned away, and I could see myself reflected in their eyes—Cinderella’s stepmother, the wicked witch, and the Dragon Lady rolled into one Monstrous Mom. I felt guilty and remorseful, but they arrived home from school in cheerful moods, the incident forgotten or forgiven.
    At bath time, as I collected clean clothes for the next day, I could hear Kathie and her brother playing a new game. Teddy, at one end of the tub, was America; Kathie was England at the other. A large pan was a boat that sailed back and forth carrying toys from America to the poor children in England. Teddy had a whistle he was using to announce sailing schedules.
    When the children got out of the tub they wanted to go into their rooms to get dry.
    “No, dry yourselves in here,” I said.
    ”Esther lets us!”
    “Well, I’m taking care of you today.”
    Teddy said. “Esther’s nicer than you are.”
    “That’s right,” said Kathie. Then she added kindly, “But you’re nice, too—in some ways.”
    Before Teddy went to bed, Kathie wanted to train him to be a soldier.
    “Do all boys go to war?” she asked me.
    “Most of them, if there is a war, and if there’s nothing wrong with them.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Well, if their eyes are all right and that sort of thing.”
    “Gee, Teddy, you’re lucky! You’ll be able to go to war. You’re not blind and you haven’t got a broken leg or anything.”
    “I don’t want to go to war,” Teddy said. “With all those guns I might get killed.”
    “Oh Teddy! You don’t understand.” Then she said uncertainly to me, “Right, Mummy?”
    Not understanding wars myself, my sympathies were with her brother. We decided to make a sailor out of Teddy, so Kathie could train him whether there was a war or not.
October 27, 1948
    Yesterday I took a walk to the village with Kathie and Teddy. When they sent out some feelers on the question of the Easter Bunny, I knew they were leading up to Santa Claus. We had a long talk, and I told them the truth. Instead of being disappointed, they appreciated my honest answer.
    Kathie said, “If I were an orphan, I’d want you and Daddy to adopt me.”
    “If you were an orphan, Daddy and I would be dead,” I said.
    “Well, I mean, if I had another father and mother and they died, I’d want you and Daddy to adopt me.”
    “Maybe we did,” I teased.
    “Oh no, Mummy, you laid us.”
November 22, 1948
    My trip to Fort Lauderdale did not turn out as I expected. The plan was for me to go down with Vonnie a few days ahead of Ed; then he would join us for a week. I had two reasons for taking Vonnie with me: one, Esther would have only three children to take care of during my absence; and two, I sensed that Vonnie needed the extra attention. Kathie and Teddy had each other to play with and fight with, while two-year-old Timmy was the petted baby of the family. I noticed that Vonnie was turning more frequently to sucking her thumb for comfort.
    One child, I soon learned, was almost a heavier responsibility than four. Vonnie depended on me for companionship, and her strident little voice assailed me constantly with questions, comments, and announcements. As soon as we were comfortably settled under a beach umbrella—I with my book, she with her pail and shovel—she would announce that she needed to “go johnny.” Life would have been easier if she’d still been in diapers. I couldn’t convince her that it was all right to go johnny in the ocean, so we had to cross Atlantic Boulevard and take the Illini's elevator to our apartment.
     Vonnie talked uninhibitedly with everyone she met—sales people, police men, tourists, passersby on the beach. We were in a taxi when she felt her chin and asked me if the bone she was feeling was a chicken bone.
     “No,” I answered, “that’s yours. All of us are made up of bones and flesh and blood.”
     “Mummy,” she said, “mothers and fathers make babies, but how do they do it?”
     Since we had been talking back and forth with the taxi driver, I was betting he enjoyed my dilemma.  I decided that regardless of what the books advised, I was not going to address the subject at this particular moment. I said something about a seed and changed the subject.
     Another time, after asking my third-born to be on her best behavior, I treated us to dinner at a posh restaurant. The lights were low, and dinner music played softly in the background as the hostess led us to our table.
     “What smells?” asked Vonnie in a loud voice.
     “Shh, it’s just dinner cooking,” I said.
     ”It smells awful!” she said.
     Having thus gained the  attention of of the entire room, we took our seats. I chose chicken croquettes for Vonnie, thinking this would be the easiest meal for an almost four-year-old to handle. As I cut into my steak, I glanced up and saw Vonnie spitting her chicken croquette back onto her plate.
     “Eat your dinner!” I hissed. “Don’t do that again!”
     The next time I looked up, Vonnie was eating her meal, as ordered—with her thumb and index finger holding her nose.
     While waiting for the check, I took out my compact and powdered my cross face. I thought we had provided quite enough entertainment for neighboring diners, but Vonnie watched me with her head on one side and then chirped, “See a monkey, Mummy?”
     I called Ed and told him not to plan on joining us monkeys; we were returning the next day to the zoo in Cohasset.
Thanksgiving Eve, 1948
     Here I am at my desk, alive and of sound mind after one of the most harrowing days I have ever spent. It was busy in the first place because I was getting ready for Thanksgiving. It was busy in the second place because Teddy was home with a mild case of German measles. I tried to keep him busy all morning, so I could get my work done without having him ask every two minutes, “When are you going to stuff the turkey?”
      I told him he could be a big help if he’d sort the laundry.
     This took him half an hour. He made several neat piles of towels and sheets, and spread-eagled the shirts on the floor. He was insulted when I stuffed his handiwork helter-skelter into the laundry bag. Then I said he could help make the beds with fresh sheets. After a lot of huffing and puffing on his side of the mattress, Teddy commented with six-year-old discernment, “You could probably get this done a lot faster if I just kept out of the way.”
     Teddy and Vonnie played “Boston Going” for awhile, whatever that is. I know it involves moving as much furniture as possible from one room to another because I’m the one who has to move it back.
     Kathie was home at noon, since it was the day before the holiday. I made a bargain with Esther: I would stuff the turkey and prepare the vegetables if she would take the four children for a ride.
     For the next two hours I pared vegetables, made stuffing, boiled and chopped giblets, and trussed the turkey. When Esther returned with my brood, we struck another bargain. I would take Kathie and Teddy for a walk while she made the pumpkin pie.
      At six o’clock, after the children were ready for bed, Esther and Jacquie rushed to get ready for the 6:40 train. As we started off for the station, I noticed that the leaf-burning fire made by Mr. McKenna’s gardeners had flared up. Before they left, they had smothered it, but the wind must have fanned the embers.
     When I got home I phoned the fire department. The children and I watched the firemen extinguish the flames.
     “You were the one that did it, Teddy,” said Kathie.
     “You did it, too, and anyway, it was your idea.”
     “Yes, but when I did it, nothing happened.”
     “What are you children talking about?” I asked.
     Both of them explaining at once, they told me the gardeners had put the fire out, but after they left, Kathie and Teddy blew on the leaves until it started up again.
     At least they were honest arsonists. . . .


December 1952
     I took the children in town to see Santa Claus.   The two older ones were indulgent lookers on, but Vonnie and Timmy anticipated the interview with a mixture of awe and anxiety.  Timmy wondered if it was necessary to tell Santa all the naughty things he had done.   In the middle of breakfast, he climbed down from his stool, pressed his sticky lips to my ear and whispered:  "Do you think I should tell him I— ” Embarrassed about admitting he has a habit of throwing things, he swung his arm a couple of times like a baseball pitcher.
     "Why don't you tell him you're naughty once in a while but you try awfully hard to be good."
     Timmy ventured bravely:  "Should I tell him I pick my nose?"
     " ‑‑er, well, you don't have to tell him everything," I  said.  "It would take too long."
     "If Santa asks me whether I've been good I'm going to say yes," Vonnie said, taking no chances.
     Santa Claus was a business‑like gentleman who dealt with the long row of children as if they were dolls on a production line.   Timmy came prepared with a detailed confession, but Santa merely asked him if he went to bed when he was supposed to.
     "Well, sometimes," he said unhappily.
     "I do," Vonnie told Santa.
     Christmas Eve Ed set up the wire recorder, hiding the microphone behind the draperies.  We thought it would be nice to have a recording of the children's voices as they trimmed the tree.  We pictured a Louisa May Alcottish scene—the loving family gathered around the tree, gentle voices exclaiming over the ornaments.  Thanks to the marvels of science, we would be able to treasure this scene in years to come, when the children had left us to grow old together.
     The machine recorded our children at their brattiest, starting with a progressively rancorous exchange over who would trim the high branches and who would trim the low ones.  Kathie thought she should do the high branches because she was the tallest; Teddy thought he should because he liked climbing up the stepladder.  Vonnie and Timmy wrangled over who would place the star when they finished trimming the tree.
     "Children!  Children!" I interrupted.  "This is Christmas!"
     They paused long enough to inform me that this was not Christmas, then returned to the fray.  End of reel one.
     We got the next reel going in time to catch a disagreement about the tinsel.  Should it be draped on the branch, piece by piece, as Kathie insisted?  Or should it be thrown on in bunches (Timmy’s method).
     As a peacemaker I was wrung dry; I groaned and wished the Three Wise Men would show up with some advice.  They would probably tell me I should have four trees.  Or no children.
     As Ed was shouting for order, the wire recorder suddenly gave a hiss and a snap and began spewing coils of wire like a distraught tickertape.  It was a clear case of a nervous breakdown.
     After the children had fallen asleep with visions of sugarplums and more expensive items dancing in their heads, Ed and I made several trips to the third floor, tiptoeing past the darkened bedrooms with our loot.  We filled the children's stockings, then stood arm in arm contemplating the cluster of gifts under the tree.
     Ed was worried. "Are you sure there's enough? It would be terrible if they were disappointed."
     "Oh, I think so," I said. "Of course, we couldn't buy them everything they asked for."  Uneasily, we went to bed.
     "Now just a minute, let's have a little system here!" Ed said, but no one was listening.  The children had discarded their stocking toys and were pawing through their presents.  Christmas sounds filled the air, the mad crackling of ripping paper and the screams of delight and bang bang, ding ding, honk honk and  Minxi racing around barking approval.
     Ed shook his head. "We gave them too much.  It's sickening!   They're absolutely sated."
     "Yes." I stared dazedly at the array of toys and games. "Much too much."
     "Why don't you keep them occupied while I sneak a few things back to the third floor?" Ed said.
     "Good idea."
     It wasn't long before Vonnie missed the very things we had stolen. Surrounded though she was by dozens of new toys, none of them appealed to her like the ones in the attic.
     "I'll bring them down some rainy day," I said.  "By then, you'll be bored with what you have."
     "I'm already bored with what I have," Vonnie said.
     When she was unable to wear me down, she put her chin in the air, crossed her arms, and said huffily:  "There isn't any Santa Claus, anyway!"
     By this time I was in no mood for a chat about Santa Claus being a spirit.
     "Good!" I said.  "Next year you won't expect so much, then!"
     Yesterday Vonnie came into my room and said:  "I wish I hadn't told you and Daddy there wasn't any Santa Claus."
     Busy changing beds, I said, "Well, you can still pretend, can't you?"
     "But you'd know I was pretending."  She sighed wistfully.  "I'd like you and Daddy to have fun thinking I believe in Santa Claus."
     "Never mind, honey." I gave her a hug.  "Timmy still believes—next year you can have lots of fun being one of Santa's helpers."
     She cheered up at that and ran off to play....
 February 12, 1953
     Kathryn and I were chatting in the laundry room recently when we heard horrible shrieks coming from the kitchen.  I froze, so Kathryn rushed in and found Timmy holding a paring knife in one hand, a cardboard carton in the other.  He was dripping blood all over the floor.  He was trying to cut a face in the carton when the knife slipped and gashed the tip of his finger.
     I recovered sufficiently to drive him to the doctor’s, but he and I were both in a state of shock.  Between shrieks he asked me if he was going to die and I said distractedly that I hoped not, whereupon he bellowed louder than ever.  “No, no, you’re not going to die, Timmy, you’re just going to see Dr. Hinchliffe.”
     The doctor said it was impossible to take stitches in such a tiny area, so he pushed the partly severed piece back in place and covered it with a band-aid and several layers of gauze.
     He changed the dressing every few days and soon told me Timmy’s finger was healed enough to require only a glove finger to protect it.  Having just run out of glove fingers, I fashioned one from four or five band-aids that Timmy could slip on and off at will.
     “Just take it easy for a few days,” the doctor cautioned Timmy.  “If you play too roughly you may knock the tip off again.”
     Timmy is nothing if not cautious.  He is unable to empty his waste-basket, but on the other hand, quite well enough to go coasting with his buddies.  It is out of the question for him to take a bath because the band-aids might get wet, but if they are soaked as a result of snowball making, Timmy bravely suffers in silence.
     Finally it was obvious that the finger was completely healed, with only a small bump to show for his mishap.  But convincing Timmy of this was another matter.
     “Timmy, you don’t need that dirty thing anymore.   Let’s throw it away.”
     He clutched the band-aids more tightly  and whimpered, “I do, too.”
     “Well, let me put a clean one on, anyway.”
     But no, he liked that one—greasy, grimy, ragged though it was.  He wore it like a Purple Heart and waved it in people’s faces if they didn’t notice it.
     “See my finger?  I almost cut it off and I have to be very careful of it.”
     Yesterday Timmy was invited to a birthday party, and I said firmly, “You are not going to any party with that moldy germ-trap on your finger.  I am going to throw it away, and I don’t want to hear any arguments.”
     I didn’t, surprisingly enough, until well after his bedtime, when Ed I were settled in the living room, drinking our highballs and reading our books.
     Mummeeeee!” came a plaintive voice. “I need a band-aid for my finger!”
     “You do not need a band-aid.  Now be quiet and let Mummy read her book.”
     “But the doctor said I should be careful of it,” Timmy cried pitifully. I was too tired to make any trips that were not necessary, so I tried to ignore the muffled sobs coming from the second floor.
     Half an hour later, all was quiet, and I began turning the pages of my book instead of reading the same paragraph over and over.
     Then:  “Mummeee” came a wheedling voice.  “Can’t I have just one little band-aid for my finger?”
     Ed joined our dialogue: “One more word out of you, young man, and I’ll give you something you really need!”
      “But Mummy,” Timmy persisted (he’s so afraid of his father), “you don’t know what rough games we play at school.”
     “You’re not in school now, you’re in bed.”
     “No I’m not, I’m at the head of the stairs.”
    “GO TO BED!” Ed ordered, stamping his feet threateningly.
     At 9:00 the patient was still wide awake and complaining, and neither of his parents had the energy to give him something to cry about.  Kathie came down from her room, where she had been engrossed in a book, to get her goodnight kiss.
     “Timmy’s crying in his bed. He wants a band-aid for his finger,” she said.
     “Is that right?” I sighed.  “Would you get him one, honey?  I guess it’s the only way we’ll ever have any peace.”
     “Sure,” said Kathie.  She went to the kitchen, found a band-aid and trudged upstairs with it.          
     Timmy continued to weep.
     “He says one isn’t enough,” Kathie called.  “Shall I get him another one?”
     By this time it was easier to give in than to argue, especially with Kathie doing the stair climbing.  I said all right, get him another one but tell him that’s all.
     Peace and quiet at last! But wait . . . is that a fresh outburst of sobs upstairs?  Really, this is too much!  I blaze up the stairs and wrathfully demand to know what is wrong with His Highness now.
     Kathie was having a fit of giggles and could scarcely tell me.  Finally she gasped:  “He held out the wrong finger!  He’s mad because the band-aids are on the wrong finger!”
June 20, 1954
     We have added to Malleys' menagerie a black kitten named Dizzy.  We can't decide whether Dizzy is the world's biggest show‑off or simply deranged.  All he needs is an audience of one or more, and he will start performing.  He stands on his hind legs and shadow boxes; he does somersaults; he demonstrates his gymnastic ability on the rungs of the kitchen stool.  Once, I would swear to it, he hung by his knees.
     Sometimes he lies flat on the rug, and reaching one paw in front of him, drags himself across the floor—just for the heck of it.  Dizzy has no fear of man or beast.  Fascinated by our cocker spaniel's straggly coat and dangling ears, he crouches down near her and watches her as if she were an over-sized mouse, his tail switching, his eyes enormous.  Suddenly he takes a flying leap and captures one of Minxi's ears.  When she growls a protest, he retreats by bouncing sideways on all fours.  Most of the time Minxi endures his antics with stoic self restraint.  I think she is grateful for any kind of attention.
     Kathryn can't sweep the floor without the assistance of Dizzy, who hitches a ride and hangs on no matter how lively his steed.  Recently I lifted a mattress to tuck in the sheet and was startled when a black paw shot up through the bedspring.
     However, Dizzy does provide the family with constant entertainment. We enjoy his eccentricities even though we feel like hiding him in the attic when company comes.