A new essay by alumna Peggy Shinner (fiction, ’94) appears online at Salon:

Don’t slouch, young lady

(excerpted and adapted  from “You Feel So Mortal/Essays on the Body”)

I was a Dr. Spock baby.  My mother kept “The Pocket Book of Baby and Child Care” in the end table next to the couch in the living room, where I found it once when I was looking through drawers for evidence of family secrets, a favorite childhood pastime, and where it remained until two years after her death, when my father finally decided to sell the house and move to an apartment. Periodically I would take out the book and idly flip through the pages. What did it tell me about my mother, or my mother about her children? My mother, a binge eater, insecure cook, sharp dresser and the family ledger-keeper and handyperson, who often seemed daunted by the rigors of raising children. She died in her mid-50s, a woman about whom you might have predicted an early death, perhaps because she seemed afraid of life and gave off a persistent whiff of unhappiness. “Use the Index at the back when you are troubled,” Dr. Spock suggested, and I imagine her folded in the corner of the couch, legs under her housecoat, a Marlboro in the ashtray on the end table. It was late at night. My father was snoring ballistically from the bedroom. The house seemed to be ticking with worry.

Continue reading online.

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