#75 The Yearbook

One of the many thousands of times my mother Alice was unhappy with me was in Jr. High. I was about thirteen. We had annuals or yearbooks of course, and friends and teachers signed them, of course. My father signed mine, which instigated her to sit me down for one of her pronouncements. I had no clue what was coming.

She decided she should sign my annual too but I hadn’t asked her. Okay that doesn’t sound so bad. I guess I hurt her feelings, but Dad just knew to sign it, I thought. And that was months earlier. A school year earlier.

She was still talking. She said she was going to sign my book anyway but didn’t know what to write.  Is she asking me what she should write? Or what she should have written? No. She was still telling me something. She was still angry but about what? My discomfort or confusion was increasing. I sat very still. We were alone in the back of the house and I was glad to be sitting near the door.

Here’s what she told me next. When she didn’t know what to write in my book, she sent a letter to Ann Landers to ask her what she should say in her daughter’s yearbook.  What? Asked what?

I listened to my mother tell me how offended she was about what Ann Landers wrote back. She was especially upset because she went right to the top. Not Dear Abby but to Ann Landers. Because of me, she received what she considered a rude letter from Ann Landers containing no advice.

The story escalated to her high pitch. She was sure she was the only person in the country rejected by her hero. It was my fault. I felt bad.  But something more was coming.

And then the dreaded words arrived; the hateful words that usually followed violence. She cried, “What did I ever do that was so bad to deserve you?”

She never did sign my book.

After my travels to Russia, when all my belongings were in storage, I sent almost everything for auction. Unfortunately a box with some personal items like the silver baby cup and all the yearbooks, even college, went by mistake. I never recovered those things. My only regret about the loss is that I’d love to see what my father wrote in that book. I’d even love to see his handwriting.

Maybe my mother needed Ann Landers to get through life.

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