Talks with My Cousin Dorothy

I have a very bright cousin who graduated from Bryn Mawr–a school founded in 1885 to give women access to educational opportunities and now one of the “seven sisters” to the Ivy Leagues. My Norwegian mother, mentioned in my last article, Revision X 6?, always revered Dorothy for many reasons, but one of them was that she graduated from Bryn Mawr. Throughout her life, Dorothy has been a reader of fiction and non-fiction.

She tracks what’s happening in the world. If she reads something she thinks pertains to my interests, she xeroxes it and sends it via snail mail with a little note in her loopy, fluid, distinct handwriting. Through e-mail, I find out about books she’s read or is reading. But most important to me, we talk.

Dorothy knows and loves all members of my family. Since I am working on revision 6 of my memoir, Jewels that Speak, I can run things by her. She understands the peoples, places, and stories I am trying to convey. We often discuss my Norwegian mother. She tells me stories I did not know, that my mother had told her but never shared with me. And Dorothy adored my father for his magnetic charms, quiet human understanding, abundant artistic gifts, and–quite frankly–boyish immature ways.

“Do you remember the time,” Dorothy said, “when I was over for dinner, and Bob (my father) had just carved the roast and asked if anyone wanted a slice, and when we all piped up, ‘I do,’ he began–with his hands–to throw slices across the table onto our plates?”

“No!” I said. “He did that?”

“Yes, and your mother looked none too pleased.”

For some reason such talk is very satisfying. Though my mother and father are gone, these conversations bring them back to life.

Thank you, dear world, for my cousin, Dorothy.