logo

Newest Brief Essays

"Women's Hour, YMCA" featured in Kenyon Review Online

"I Second That Emotion" (craft essay) featured in New Ohio Review

Essays

Other Brief Essays

"Advanced Directive to My Future Roommate…"

"Things Gone the Way of Time," recently reprinted in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton)

Essays

Study with Rebecca this summer

Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, June 18-25
APPLY NOW

Kenyon

Kenyon Review PODCAST with Rebecca

(on memoir, genre-crossing, writing practice, and more)

Podcast

Word Painting Revised Edition: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

New edition includes over 100 writing exercises for all genres.

Word Painting

The Tribal Knot

Rebecca'a newest nonfiction book, The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change is now available from Indiana University Press and Amazon.

Tribal Knot

Dependent


            In one of my earliest memories, my mother is standing on an unpacked crate beneath the ceiling of a Quonset hut. Barefoot, she balances like a circus performer, testing her weight gingerly as she leans toward the curved wall, trying to hang a picture of waves. This is the only image in my head that hints at any desperation my mother might have felt in her long career as a military wife. If hers was a war against rootlessness and loneliness, she fought it privately, in small physical skirmishes. She made a home from whatever was given. If the kitchen in our new quarters had a window, she'd size it up as we walked through the empty rooms. The next morning, I'd wake to find she'd stitched and hung yellow curtains, creating an illusion of sunlight that tinted the linoleum and bounced off the toaster she'd polished with her sleeve.

            My father was like her in this way; he did what he could to shield us from the difficulties of military life. Since he was a marine, we could not accompany him on overseas assignments, some of which lasted fifteen months. And since he was an officer, we were able to stay in one place longer than the families of enlisted men. Except for a few months in temporary quarters--the Quonset hut, an apartment building, the officers' guest suite--we lived in sturdy houses within driving distance of the base. As we approached the gate, the uniformed guard would glance at the sticker on the windshield of our station wagon, click his heels together, and salute. We children would salute back. If our father was present, he'd reprimand us, reminding us that a military salute was not to be taken lightly.

            Once out of our father's sight, we took it lightly, as we took lightly everything related to the military. Cushioned from hardships, we saw the base as one privilege after another--free swimming, dime movies, twenty-five-cent bowling and miniature golf, discount toys at the PX, cheap groceries (unlike our neighbors with their civilian pints of ice cream, we never had less than a gallon in our freezer.) The only privilege we did not welcome was free medical care, which seemed to encourage our mother to splurge on tetanus shots and throat cultures...


READ THE ENTIRE ESSAY

Dependent
Another Essay from The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings