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Continued from School

Yry’s letters home were full of optimism and excitement; however, her private notes during this time reveal something else. Although self-righteously clinging to the notion that she was a fiercely independent loner, these weeks in Laramie tested her—especially Sundays.

Sunday is the hardest day of the week—the day when endless silence settles over me like a waterproof mantle shutting out the world and imprisoning me in my own thoughts and feelings until I think I’m ready to burst. No school, no library, not even a good movie to sink into.

 But things were going on.


As Mary Karr concedes, time fades and fuzzes memory. My memory is a oversized dust bunny. But some events shock memory into indelible recall. Looping replays of an extraordinary event sear words and scenes deeply into the crevices of the mind. So it happened one night over dinner and a bottle of wine with my mother.

I had been on my own for several years. I took care planning for my mother’s yearly visits. I think newly fledged kids often outdo themselves trying to impress their parents with their awesome success, their seamless slide into adulthood—at least I did.

I scoured my adopted town for the newest, most avant-garde or ethnic restaurants. I blew my budget on tickets to fine arts performances or exhibitions that coincided with mother’s visits. I showed off my cadre of friends with a picnic or party at my house. Coincidentally, during this time, I was madly involved in a torrid affair with a married man, which presented the inevitable problem of how to explain my continued singlehood at a time when other people my age were pairing up and starting families.

In retrospect, I suppose mom had suspicions. We had never talked frankly about personal matters. Perhaps being a single woman in a small western town during the 1950’s and 60’s ingrained her to caution and discretion. If she could be taciturn, I could match her tight-lips. As the years piled up and both her daughters escaped, mom collected a stable of young friends. Perhaps she used them to practice secret-swapping. They were a decidedly more avid audience than either of her own kids. So here she was, at the end of another extended stay at my house, perhaps suspecting that I was hiding something and hoping to coax it out of me.

During her last night in town, she treated us to a fancy meal at Misty’s, a swank establishment that hugged the banks of the Boise river. We started with cocktails. Then she ordered a bottle of wine with the meal. The alcohol loosened our frigid tongues . . . at least it loosened hers. Sadly, I don’t think I ever came clean about my own situation. But the story she told, was a nine on the Richter scale.