July 23, 2013
May 8, 2013
Recently, Alice told me the meat grinder story again. She doesn’t tell it often, for reasons you’ll understand after reading it. It’s a story about her and her mother, Martha, and, although Alice thinks it is a story about a daughter’s guilt, it is also a story about a mother’s love. Because this is the week before Mother’s Day, I thought I’d pass it on to you.
August 15, 2012
Yesterday, Alice received a message from her 80-something second cousin. We’ll call this woman Lucille. It caused Alice such concern that she forwarded the message to me. Read the rest of this entry »
April 22, 2012
February 20, 2012
In 1924, when Alice was nine years old, she found herself in front of the jailhouse at the edge of a mob calling for a hanging.
December 15, 2011
In 1923, when Alice was eight years old, her best friend Hazel asked her if she wanted a job. Hazel needed help loading up bottles of beer that her father had made and taking them to the cave where he hid his brew. She promised they’d each get a quarter for about an hour’s worth of work.
August 28, 2011
On Alice’s 96th birthday she received a ring from a stranger. Read the rest of this entry »
June 28, 2011
Almost every woman who lives at The Place goes once a week to Marveen, the beauty shop stylist. Marveen cuts, perms, and shapes every head of downy white hair into pretty much exactly the same style—more or less flat on top, ear-length, and fluffed out on the sides, a modified George Washington look.
Alice goes to Marveen too, but she doesn’t appreciate looking like all the other residents, even though once, long ago, she and her five sisters all wore the same cut. Read the rest of this entry »
June 13, 2011
June 4, 2011
Sometimes Alice was bad. Very bad. She likes to remember those times. Read the rest of this entry »
March 13, 2011
March 10, 2011
As a small child, Mattie followed the moon, amazed that every night brought a change. She would follow it still as an old woman, standing out on her back steps in North Dakota—never mind sub-zero weather. She wanted to see it without the filter of window glass. Her devotion was absolute.
March 7, 2011
Mattie was ten years old the summer of 1921 when her cousin Siri moved to town and got a job at the post office. All day Siri stood behind a narrow window on one side of a high-ceilinged room with a wooden floor, and Mr. Peaks, the druggist, stood at his own counter on the pharmacy side. Farmers, merchants, and housewives drifted in and out for pills, powders, syrups, letters, packages, and stamps. Mattie, a child in love with books and the moon, soon fell in love with Siri too.
Siri stayed in a second-floor room at a boarding house at the end of Main Street. Her window overlooked the railroad tracks and was partly shaded by a spindly cottonwood. She was nineteen, and this move from the family farm into town was meant to be a new beginning. Instead it was the last summer of her life.
The circumstances around her death were secret and shameful. To counteract them, the editor of the local paper wrote a flowery obituary for his four hundred readers that made it sound as if she simply floated off one day into heaven. I found out what happened to her because Mattie, when she reached her eighties, told me what she knew. Read the rest of this entry »
November 27, 2010
Alice and her family were often visited by Mr. and Mrs. Pletcher, well-off farmers who came into town regularly for supplies. The moment Mr. Pletcher headed off to make his purchases, Mrs. Pletcher removed her large pink corset, draped it over the back of my grandmother’s sofa, lay on her back with her knees raised up underneath her long skirt and, each time, asked the same question: “Can you see anything, Martha?”