Alas, No More Dearest Mum

Self spent the afternoon in Stanford with niece G. The day was gorgeous and balmy. While walking from the Quad up to Tresidder, someone called out, “Marianne!” Turned out to be Dagmar, program administrator of the English Department. She was walking with a very nice-looking, older gentleman. Self introduced her to niece.

Afterwards, walked with niece to the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and browsed their publications: they had a couple of books by Marilyn Yalom (Birth of the Chess Queen, A History of the Wife) and some other fascinating feminist tomes.

Dearest Mum flew home this morning. Niece professed to find her much calmer than she’d been on previous visits. Niece tells self she is thinking of going for graduate studies in History with a concentration on Post-Colonial Southeast Asian History, which means she’ll get to spend a lot of time in the Philippines. Dearest Mum will be beside herself with happiness! Niece inquired how son had survived Dearest Mum’s visit to San Luis Obispo. Self said that Dearest Mum was for the most part sane, but perhaps that was because self tried never to leave her alone with son. Only once did self let down her guard, and that was when Dearest Mum declared she was thirsty, so son pulled up at a store, and Dearest Mum flung a few crumpled dollars at self and told her to buy some bottled water. When self got back to the car, she caught the tail end of something son was saying: “There’re other things a Psychology major can become — we don’t all become therapists.” To self’s utter chagrin, she realizes Dearest Mum must have been going on again about how therapists, of all professionals, are the most likely to commit suicide. An assertion self has heard her make about a trillion times (but, thankfully, never in son’s presence — until now, that is).

Anyhoo, self and niece had lunch at the Thai place in the basement of the Psychology building. A blonde student was seated on the ground by the entrance, holding up a cardboard sign begging for spare change. Niece waved him off and said, “Maybe after we get our lunch, we’ll have some change.” He replied: “I’m not here to ask for money. I’m here to raise your awareness about world poverty.”

While seated at the picnic tables outside, niece said hi to three different people, including a young man who had been in her freshman dorm. This man had flowing long locks and tattooed arms. Niece told self that, in freshman year, the guy had been an absolute dork. Then he did a Stanford Abroad thing somewhere, and came back with the long hair and the tattoos.

Niece says she heard self was teaching in Stanford in the spring. “Where’d you hear that?” self protested. “That’s not true. I’m not teaching here.”

“That’s strange,” niece said. “One of my good friends said she saw your name announced on a poster somewhere.”

Self mumbled something or other.

(Actually, self isn’t teaching, just reading! But niece doesn’t know about self’s other book, and it’s better that she doesn’t know: self thinks she might be disturbed to read some of the stories!)

But, truly, it was an absolutely gorgeous day. Niece told self that her younger brother, a sophomore in Johns Hopkins, will be in Manila for three weeks in January, the same time self is there. He’s decided to be a doctor, and signed on for a short internship with a doctor in Makati Med. Thank God! Maybe Dearest Mum will be so beside herself over having nephew near at hand that she will forget entirely about self.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Iain Kelly

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