“My mother made us popsicles out of orange juice and tongue depressors. She was a doctor, but that’s as much as I remember about her work, the tongue depressors.”
Judy, 34, teacher

“She made me a marshmallow fluff sandwich on Wonder Bread every day for lunch. Sometimes there was peanut butter, too, but my favorite was plain marshmallow fluff. Other kids thought that was so cool.”
Jen, 29, bartender

“She stopped cooking when she went back to school.. She did her homework at the kitchen table and kept talking about the feminist dialectic and the oppression of meatloaf. We ate a lot of frozen pizza those years.”
Dave, 37, lawn mower salesman

“Her hands smelled like garlic when she tucked me in at night. It was embarrassing because it smelled so… ethnic. She didn’t know about rubbing your hands with lemon to get rid of the smell. I realized when I was about thirteen that I was a much better housewife than her. It was a calling. There are things I knew, instinctively, that no one taught me. How to make a juicy pot roast, for example. That’s why I’ve come so far, you see.”
Betty, 80, chef/homemaker

“She said breastfeeding was for cows. How selfish is that? When I have kids, believe me, I’m gonna breastfeed.”
Elizabeth, 24, executive assistant


“She took us to the pool all summer; me and my two best friends, Ginny and Pam. We all had matching yellow bathing suits… even my mom had one. I’m not sure when I started being embarrassed by that, and by her hairy legs.”
Mary, 27, graphic artist

“She wore those panty hose that come in the plastic eggs.”
John, 33, commodities trader

“The smell of Chantilly still makes me think of her in dress-up clothes. We weren’t rich, but she had one really nice outfit for each occasion… she was always the best dressed, when it mattered.”
Sarah, 44, bus driver

“She never explained to me how our feet got this way. Even when I was a little kid, I had to wear high heels. The other girls were always jealous, you know, because we always had the latest fashions, not to mention great cars and a swimming pool. But there are so many things I don’t know about her, and what her life was like, before me.”
Barbie, 42, fashion icon

“She wore bellbottoms before any of the other mothers.”
Iris, 37, on disability

“I never saw her without her lipstick. Lancome Coral Mist. And she used a particular type of pressed powder that left a really faint white dust on my cheek when she kissed me goodbye in the morning.”
Marge, 56, editor

“She had party wigs… wore them when her and her boyfriends went out. A Cher-style long straight one, and a bunch of shorter, curly jobs in different colors. I didn’t realize how bizarre that was until I was, I guess, in college, and I met my first serious girlfriend. One night I asked her where all her wigs were and she was like what are you talking about?”
Michael, 35, unemployed

“She wore bifocals that made her eyes look really big. She called it her Marion the Librarian look.”
Carl, 39, bookstore owner


“I called her and told her the first time I had sex. I was in my boyfriend’s parents’ house, and I snuck out into the living room early in the morning to use the phone. We were very close, like best friends.”
Eva, 31, television producer

“She told me she’d been a virgin when she married my dad. Boy, was that a crock of shit.”
Laura, 36, database engineer

“The oracle warned me, but how could I have known? She was beautiful, though older, and I thought my true life was about to begin. Instead it was all lust and lies… an incestuous abomination. Now she is dead by her own hand, and darkness has fallen.”
Oedipus, ancient, outcast

“I found her diaphragm shoved in the back of the bathroom cabinet, and borrowed it for my first big date. We’re Catholic, you know.”
Stella, 40, journalist

“She gave me a copy of The Joy of Sex when I turned thirteen. I think she was already nervous because I wasn’t showing interest in girls. Well, a bunch of cheesy pencil drawings of hairy hippies didn’t help. I was mortified.”
Angus, 32, costume designer


She had an affair with the babysitter. It was a big scandal. They ran off together and left us. We never talked about it. I once heard our neighbor, Mr. Wiley, call them lesbians on the lam.
Steve, 40, basketball coach

_The man who raised me knew — everyone knew — that I was not his son. But he loved me anyway. When I was young, I’d ask her to tell the conception story over and over again. Sometimes the plot, the details were different from others; when I asked her to explain she’d shush me and look at him strangely. He was a saint, my mother’s husband."
Jesus, 33, carpenter

“When our father left, she cried for two weeks, then pulled it together and got a job at Kroger’s.”
Sean, 37, contractor

“They stopped talking to each other when I was in my teens. Hated the sight of each other… It had something to do with alcohol and the Depression. If one had anything to say to the other, they’d pass it through me. It was like that kiddy game… telephone? Wouldn’t think of divorce, though. It wasn’t done in those days._
Tony, 72, retired colonel, U.S. Army


“I don’t think she loved me. I know it, actually. I’m not bitter; I’ve worked through it.”
Ben, 46, lawyer

“Only two months after my father died, she married his brother. Now everyone is lying to me, and I can make no sense of it. It’s frailty… moral frailty.”
Hamlet, 20-something, unemployed aristocrat

“She threw me out when I told her I was gay. Said I would burn in hell. I really don’t like to talk about it.”
Andrea, 25, grad student

“At night I’d sneak into the dining room, where she kept her purse, and steal small bills. I was saving up to buy a bus ticket. I had to get the hell outta dodge. One night she was paying bills and she started crying, stressed about never having enough money. I didn’t say a word.”
Sheila, 37, waitress