THERE ARE AT LEAST FIVE REASONS WHY I SHOULDN’T BE BREAKING MY BLOG-FAST THIS WAY, BUT…

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…I couldn’t resist.  I thought it was funny.  “It” was tacked on the wall of an examination room at Princeton Healthcare, where I was waiting with Bill to meet a new doctor.  His old doctor in this particular speciality had retired, without much notice (and without being that old), and I had shoehorned myself into the initial meeting between Bill and new doctor to hear for myself what new guy had to say, so I could nag Bill properly between visits.

“It” (the thing I thought was funny) was a list of answers second-graders had given to questions about their moms, as published in some town newspaper unknown to me.  Immediately, I thought “Blog!”  (It was the sort of thing many blog readers, although not necessarily mine, seem to “like.”) Unfortunately, I saw no way of discreetly ripping it off the wall, so I had to wait till I got home to try to find it on the web.  And I did!

These are the first five reasons I can think of for why I shouldn’t be using what I found to reopen TGOB after having been absent for a while. (If I’d pondered longer, I’m sure I could have come up with more.)

(1) The website on which I found it was a Tea Party site.  (Boo, hiss.)

(2) It has absolutely nothing to do with getting old.

(3) I haven’t been a mother of a second-grader for thirty-nine years, and as best I can recollect, neither of mine would have given any of these answers.

(4) I don’t normally include God in my blog posts, as I really have no idea what that word means (I tend to think of it as metaphor), and am not at all sure what it means to other people either.

(5) It is beneath me, and perhaps also insulting to my readership, to pander to what I imagine is popular taste when I know everyone who has chosen to spend some time with TGOB is both highly intelligent and discriminating.

But I am a weak woman, riddled with human frailty, so here it is anyway.  Enjoy it if you can.  If you can’t, cheer up: For next time, I have in mind a wry observation about the international economic situation.

P.S. Also do feel free to comment on any of the answers.  I myself am quite partial to the second answer to the question of why the child’s mom married the child’s dad.

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Why God Made Moms

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?

  1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
  2. Mostly to clean the house.
  3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?

  1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
  2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
  3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?

  1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
  2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?

  1. We’re related.
  2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s moms like me.

What kind of a little girl was your mom?

  1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
  2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
  3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?

  1. His last name.
  2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
  3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?

  1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.
  2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
  3. My grandma says that mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.

Who’s the boss at your house?

  1. Mom doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such a goof ball.
  2. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
  3. I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What’s the difference between moms and dads?

  1. Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work.
  2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
  3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.
  4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?

  1. Mothers don’t do spare time.
  2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?

  1. On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.

2.  Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.

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LOSING FIFTEEN POUNDS: PART TWO

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[…continued from previous post.]

I began my summer of staying home to lose weight by immediately leaving home again.  I had been invited to accompany a new college friend to Atlantic City for four or five days.  Amy was a graduating senior whom I’d always secretly admired but never before gotten to know, as we had neither friends nor academic interests in common. We came together during her last semester on the basis of a shared reluctance to go home on weekends.

She was tall, slender, and classy looking: long shiny dark hair, long shapely legs, and a soft, well-rounded bosom of movie star proportions. She was also an astonishingly good classical violinist and, equally impressive to me, owned thirty-five cashmere sweaters (some formerly her mother’s), which she didn’t save for special occasions but wore every day, in rotation, with jeans.

Amy was now suffering through the end of what she declared was the most profound love affair she would ever have in all her life. He was a genius, she said quietly. He was also married, unhappily of course, and could not leave his wife, a Catholic. Although he had many times led beautiful Amy gently (ever so gently) to the brink of consummation over the course of their two years together, professor and student in erotic endeavor as well as in her musical studies, he had steadfastly declined to rob her of her technical virginity; it would be both unfair to her and an act of infidelity to his wife.

He wanted to preserve her purity because he loved her. (“And he does, I know he does,” she whispered, her cheeks pink with recollected passion.) The most he would permit, during their clandestine after-hours meetings in his office, was for her to express her desire by gratifying his, on her knees on a small oriental rug with which he had thoughtfully decorated his office for that purpose.

Now she was graduating and wouldn’t see him again. How was she going to survive, back with her parents in their Upper East Side apartment facing the park? They didn’t know about this life-altering relationship and wouldn’t understand if they did. She simply couldn’t leave campus those last few weekends while there was a chance he might be able to plead some unfinished work in the office (he composed as well as taught) and call her on the dormitory phone Saturday or Sunday afternoon to meet him there.

I listened with shining eyes. Why was I not the heroine of such a heartbreaking drama? Well, I knew why. Who could possibly love my plump cheeks, round chin, round stomach and thighs? But hearing about a love like that was second best to suffering it myself. I eagerly accepted her invitation to come with her on the four- or five-day Atlantic City trip after her graduation. She needed to get away, she said, before the many dreary and loveless years of living at home. [How, she asked rhetorically, could she ever love again, after Him?]  I too needed some time away to shrink my stomach in preparation for spending the whole summer with my hypercritical mother, who had occasionally begun asking the heavens what would become of me after college.  What better place and company for that than the seaside in June with lovely heartbroken Amy?

“You won’t meet anyone in Atlantic City,” said my mother. Did she mean no eligible man would cross my path, or no man would be interested? Meeting men was absolutely not the purpose of this trip, I declared. We were just going to get some sun while Amy recovered from an unhappy love affair. No, I couldn’t answer any more questions because the man was married and rather famous in musical circles.

We went by bus. As we emerged from the Atlantic City terminal, it began to rain. We’d rented a small furnished room, bath down the hall, on the second floor of a rooming house near the Boardwalk – the idea being we wouldn’t be in the room much so why spend money to stay somewhere fancy? Fancy it wasn’t: two single beds, one bedstand with lamp, a single bureau, a shallow closet and a sink. We unpacked and peered out the window behind the headboards. The rain was now a downpour.

“Good thing we brought books and umbrellas,” said Amy. “We can go sit in a nice hotel lobby and read.” I had no better ideas. After a modest lunch at the nearest cafeteria on Pacific Avenue, we put up our wet umbrellas and fought the winds coming from the Boardwalk to reach a hotel. In deep lobby chairs we read all afternoon. Early dinner in the same hotel. Then up with the umbrellas again to struggle back to the rooming house. I finished my book in bed.

It continued to pour for four more days. No beach. No healthful walks on the Boardwalk. I didn’t regret the loss of beach; I had no bathing suit that fit and had brought only shorts and a few short-sleeve shirts left over from high school summers in case we were going to do a lot of lying around on the sand getting tan. But I had counted on the walks, to begin burning up the multiple thousands of excess calories I must have deposited on my person since the last time I had been, briefly, at what I considered a desirable weight.

Instead, we had to read on our beds for as long as we could after coming back from breakfast in the coffee shop around the corner — our wet umbrellas propped open on the floor to dry – before venturing out for a repeat of the first day’s activities. Amy didn’t mind. She enjoyed observing hotel guests from the depths of a comfortable fauteuil in each hotel lobby we visited, and even began to develop a preference in lobbies, based on some perceived distinction between the clientele on view. She said it helped take her mind off Him.

Not having a Him on my mind, I soon lost interest in gazing at wet strangers hurrying into hotels and began to resent having spent what little cash I had on such a vapid travel experience. I suggested finding a movie. Atlantic City couldn’t be without movie theaters. Amy thought movies inappropriate in light of her grief and asked me to be more understanding. I grew increasingly hungry. I had been eating very little at our meals in hopes of maybe losing a pound or two even without the walks. The unfamiliar abdominal emptiness, coupled with so much sitting and listening to her now tiresome ruminations about what He might be doing at any particular moment, was tempered only by the growing certitude my stomach was shrinking.

On the fifth day, the sun came out. Amy pulled on her bathing suit, in which she looked gorgeous. I buttoned my shorts, with effort. And off we went – to the beach, to the beach! — bearing towels, baby oil and sunglasses. We had about six hours before having to slip old cotton dresses over the beachwear, collect our bags from the rooming house and catch the bus back to New York. It was enough to achieve what we’d allegedly come for.

“Mmmm, you got a nice tan,” said my mother as I unlocked the door that evening. “And it looks as if you lost a pound or two. You want to eat something?”

I began at once to work at losing more.

[To be continued….]

STICK SHIFT

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It seems the kind of car I drive gives my age away.  Not that I’m hiding my age. Certainly not on this blog.  And not that the car is so very old.  Actually it is, by some people’s standards, but lots of youngsters drive eleven-year old cars. So it’s not that.

What is it then? I recently learned what my car reveals about me from M., whom Bill discovered after we both decided he should not drive me to the Newark airport and then pick me up again at the other end of my recent trip to Tampa.  He tends to get lost outside of Princeton, GPS or no GPS. We also decided I should not drive myself because of the aggravation and cost of parking for all those days away and because Bill declared he would worry. [Isn’t that sweet?]

M. is a fit-as-a-fiddle former police officer,  probably in his early sixties, who has built a thriving business subsequent to retirement by driving people anywhere (including quite long distances) in their own cars for set fees far lower than those charged by commercial limousine services, plus $35 an hour waiting time (in the event he is taking you to a hospital or doctor’s appointment, or something like that).

His client base is now so large he has six other retired policemen working for him and his fees are as low as they are because he has no need to pay for vehicles, or insurance, or gas. Since the six other drivers are independent contractors for whom he acts as booking agent, he need pay no employer contribution to social security either.

M. got behind my wheel on September 1 and commented:  “A stick shift!  I haven’t driven one of these in a long long time.” Well, that made me feel like Methuselah.  Mind you, back in 2004 when I bought the car, I had specified that I did not  want an automatic transmission. Apparently no one does that anymore.

M. explained that people used to think you got better mileage per gallon with a stick shift but that was no longer true.  I have about twenty years on M. and recall that the stick shift was once preferred because you supposedly had better control of the car — and for all I know, you still do.   But I simply smiled and nodded.  Especially as M. hurried to assure me that I shouldn’t trade the car in because my stick shift was still working fine.

Well, I wasn’t going to. And I knew it was.  (Although all I said was, “That’s good to know.”)  The truth is when on occasion I’ve rented cars at airports, always with automatic transmissions because that’s all car rental places seem to have these days, my left foot doesn’t know what to do and taps the floor uselessly while the right one moves from gas to brake and back again, nervously expecting it’s about to strip the gears.

It all comes down to your past catching up with you.  I learned to drive in Los Angeles on a 1937 Plymouth coupe. It was fifteen years old by then, but no cars had been manufactured from 1942 through 1945, so many pre-war cars were still on the road. None of them had that new-fangled automatic transmission yet. Once I had my license, my father replaced the Plymouth, just as it was about to die, with a used 1946 Chevrolet allegedly driven by a little old lady in Pasadena who took it out of the garage only to go to church.  Whether or not that was true, the Chevy was in fine condition. And yes — the little old lady had driven a stick shift.

The Chevy lasted me a long time. It brought me back to New York, where it was followed by a used Studebaker belonging to my first husband, nine years older than I was, and then a snappy Volkswagen bug convertible belonging only to me, in which I found my second husband, two years older. The second marriage featured two more Volkswagens. [Given their respective ages, it goes without saying both husbands preferred stick shifts.]  By then, you might conclude about my selection of transmissions that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  My post-husband-pre-Bill period featured a stick-shift Nissan. Why not? My first serious boyfriend, one year older and then being recycled, drove a stick-shift Nissan of his own. [The Nissan service station was two blocks away.]  Now I have a 2004 stick-shift Honda. Wouldn’t you know? Bill, three years older, has a 2002 stick-shift Honda.

I have been reproached by many of the stick-shift men in my life (although not by Bill) for riding the clutch.  I must not ride it too much though because, as I’ve already told you, M. said my stick shift is still working fine. You might also be interested in knowing what M. said about my age — yes, I let it out, just to see what would happen — when he picked me up at Newark on September 4.  “Well, there’s 84. And then there’s 84.”

Tactful, wasn’t he? But who am I to argue with a cop, even a retired one?

WRITING SHORT: 39/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

In grade school, we memorized poems. Memorization was hard for me (it still is), but I did my best to remember the assigned passages at least long enough to recite them out loud, palms sweating, if called on. I think this practice was supposed to saturate us with uplifting and ennobling literature that would provide comfort in the tough times ahead when we became adults.

I’ve been an adult for many years now, some of them quite tough. All I could ever recall of those elementary school efforts were two lines: “By the shores of Gitchee-Goomee” (Longfellow) and “Into the valley of death rode the four hundred…” (Tennyson). Neither was particularly sustaining when encountering life’s challenges.

What did stick with me was the idea that memorizing was an approved endeavor for classy young ladies. When at the age of twelve and a half I fell in love with Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), I therefore had to memorize some of his verse – if only to show his spirit (surely hovering over my bedroom in Queens, New York) that I cared. For some reason I chose “Ozymandias.” Because it was only fourteen lines? I have no idea. But I memorized with such diligence I remembered it long after I’d traded in Shelley for Leonard Bernstein as my love object.

Did “Ozymandias” help in getting through life? Not really. Not until recently, when I took another look with adult eyes:

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear —

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Think of the many hot shits in the world you can’t stand. For all their self-importance, nothing of them will remain. They’ll be nada. Buried in bare, boundless sand.

Feel better?

WRITING SHORT: 34/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

I want to eat everything. The whole carton of chocolate ice-cream. The whole cheesecake. The whole box of blueberry muffins.  The whole family-size bag of potato chips. All the candy the kids collected in their hollowed-out pumpkin on Halloween and couldn’t finish.  It doesn’t matter that it will make me sick, and  later fat.

I want to buy everything I like in Vogue or at Pret-a-Porter — coats, dresses, sweaters, pants, boots, shoes, sandals, bags, scarves, hats. It doesn’t matter that I don’t need, can’t afford, wouldn’t know where or when to wear any of it.

I want to live in France, Italy, Spain, Greece — without moving away from home.  I also want to see Scandinavia, Germany, Japan, South America — without moving away from France, Italy, Spain, Greece. It doesn’t matter that unless someone figures out how to access multiple parallel universes before I die, this is impossible.

I want to be young, adventurous, and sexually attractive to all men I find attractive, while retaining everything I now know about youth, adventure and sexual shenanigans and without relinquishing Bill, social security, or the privileges of age. It doesn’t matter that this would make me a dirty old lady who can work miracles.

I want to take piano lessons, relearn French, enroll in a Shakespeare course, lead a meditation workshop, tutor English as a Second Language, do Pilates, participate in two reading groups favoring long books because I like the women in them, play Scrabble once a month, pet the cats, and go to New York once in a while without giving up my blog and long luxurious afternoon naps on our new bed. It doesn’t matter that there aren’t enough hours in the day for all this or enough energy in me, doesn’t matter that I’d collapse, despite the naps.

I suppose you could say I want to be God. (God can have everything.) But I’m still asking “Is there a God?” and coming up with “No.”  So it looks like I can’t have it all.  Bummer.

WRITING SHORT: 18/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

Bill often dreams about his second wife. Let’s call her Norma. He says they’re nightmares. In all our time together, he’s never dreamed about Marie Claire, his Swiss first wife. Bill and Norma were married for eighteen years. It’s been twenty-four years since they divorced. For the last fourteen of those twenty-four years he’s been with me. But it’s always Norma I hear about in the morning.

“What terrible thing did she do in the dream?” I ask for the umpteenth time. He never remembers. He does remember plenty about what she “did” in the marriage, beginning six weeks into it when she smashed a valuable objet d’art on the floor that had been a wedding present from his sister.  I’ve heard it all, always knowing Norma’s account of their eighteen years would differ, and sometimes imagining her version, despite not knowing Norma herself.

I used to think the Norma of Bill’s dreams might be a metaphor for me. We do have our squabbles. (Although I don’t resolve them by smashing valuable gifts on the floor. Not that it’s relevant, but his sister never gave us a gift to smash, probably because we never married. It wasn’t because she didn’t like me, although she didn’t. She didn’t like Norma either.)

Bill assures me dream-Norma isn’t me. He’s a psychiatrist; he should know. But I take nothing on trust. “So will you get Norma out of our bed!”  It’s supposed to be funny, although not entirely. I really am sick and tired of Norma.

This morning when we woke up, he had a new announcement: “I dreamed about you last night,”

“Really me? Not Norma?”

“Oh, yes. You, Nina.”

“Bad dream?”

“Not awful.”

“What was I doing?”

“We were squabbling.”

“What about?”

“Nothing much. What’s for breakfast?”

A dream like real life! Could this be at last the end of Norma?

CRIMINAL LAW AND ME

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I’ve enjoyed movies involving criminal trials as much — well nearly as much — as the next person, especially before I became a lawyer. (Afterwards, my interest devolved into seeing how many mistakes about courtroom procedure, the practice of law and the office life of lawyers I could find in what I was seeing, which was fatal to that temporary but willing suspension of disbelief essential to viewer appreciation.)

It’s true I entered law school at the age of 51 principally to be able to earn enough money to finish raising my two trusting children as I thought they should be raised. But I did feel I might be a good trial lawyer because I’d always been a big talker.   As a seasoned movie-goer, I visualized myself mesmerizing juries with my words. Then I discovered mesmerizing juries came last.  There was a lot, a lot, a lot of other stuff that preceded it, especially in civil litigation, where 90% of cases settle on the courthouse steps, if not before. As for crime in its less than murderous aspects, much of it is plea-bargained before it reaches fact-finding in court, which is what jury trials are all about, at least until the penalty phase.

[Before moving on, are we clear about the difference between civil and criminal litigation?  Civil cases are claims of harm brought by one party against another that don’t involve alleged violation of a federal or state statute, or of a municipal regulation.  The plaintiff (complaining party) seeks either injunctive relief — “Court, make him/her/them stop it!” or “Court, make him/her/them do it!” — or else money damages, as compensation for the alleged harm done.  No one goes to jail or prison or is condemned to death.  Criminal complaints, on the other hand, always allege statutory or regulatory violations, are brought against the defendant(s) by state district attorneys or federal assistant attorney generals acting on behalf of  governmental entities and, if proven beyond a reasonable doubt, do result in jail or prison time, or — as in the recent Boston Marathon bomber trial, brought under federal law — a death sentence.] 

Okay, back to me. What kind of future did I have in mind  when I applied to five law schools in the greater Boston area and entangled myself in considerable federally-backed loan debt?  Candidly, I was hoping for any kind of job I could get at what everyone thought of as “my age.”  Lawyer husbands of neighbors counseled that after I had passed the bar, I should set up shop at any small local law firm that would give me a desk, and then represent anyone who came in: this potential client population, they anticipated, would consist of friends, or friends of friends, seeking divorces or separation agreements or modification of custody agreements, or perhaps a new will.  No salary, of course. Just a percentage of whatever I brought in.

Theoretically speaking, there would have been an alternative to this unappealing prospect right at the outset, although no lawyer husband of a neighbor mentioned it. Any member of the bar can sign up at any Massachusetts trial court to represent indigent defendants and be paid by the Commonwealth. It’s not much per case, but probably more than a percentage of any domestic dispute fees I might have been able to generate. I could also have applied for a job as a county Public Defender and, if hired (despite my “age”), become a “regular” employee of the Commonwealth. These two avenues would have been open to me because criminal defendants are legally entitled to representation by counsel and few, other than members of the Mafia or those accused of white collar crime (that is, of playing footsie with the federal and state securities laws) can afford to retain private defense lawyers. Therefore the government which has indicted them must also provide a defense.

Perhaps not surprisingly, public defense work never crossed my mind. Defend criminals in order to send my darling children to good colleges?

I know, I know.  Under the Anglo-American system of law, you’re not a criminal until it’s proven.  Accusations can be wrong. You’re entitled to a defense. Even if there’s seemingly compelling “proof” that you’ve done what the criminal complaint asserts you’ve done, there may have been legal flaws in the way such evidence was obtained which should preclude any verdict based on it.  I do believe all this.  However, I’ve never believed it enough to step into a jail cell, even with a prison guard right outside, in order to confer with a sullen client, perhaps not guilty of the particular offense with which he was now charged, but only perhaps.  (Although a defense attorney wouldn’t really want to go into that, because unlike in movies, the job after indictment is not to find truth, whatever it might be, but to identify flaws in the prosecution’s case.) I would have been especially reluctant to step into that cell if the sullen client were known to be generally comfortable with wielding knives and punching people even if he may not have done it this time.

That’s not to say I don’t admire lawyers who do step up to bat in order to preserve what they can of how our legal system is supposed to function.  I know a wonderful woman, married to a man with whom I shared a secretary when I practiced law, who emerged from Harvard Law School with a stellar record, held a prestigious federal clerkship, and then turned down a great offer from a major law firm paying major money to go defend criminals in Suffolk County, which includes downtown Boston and its slummier corners. At the start, she earned barely a living wage walking into those prison cells alone. But her defense work, which is now in the federal system and supervisory, has since that humble beginning been praised and commended by the entire Massachusetts judiciary and bar.  I might add she continues to correct you if you happen to use the word “criminal” in connection with anyone in her client base.  “Alleged criminal,” she says quickly, with a smile.

So how about the other side?  Nina Mishkin, tough on crime?  Criminal Law was one of the five mandatory courses of the first-year curriculum at Suffolk Law School when I enrolled in 1982.  I found it confusing.  But then I found the other four courses confusing, too. (Constitutional Law most of all.)  I suspect everyone did, but being twenty-two and twenty-three, they all played it cool and pretended it was a breeze.  At 51, I sweated bullets. Going to law school “at my age?” What had I been thinking?

I did like the Criminal Law professor, though.  She was about as old as I was but had gone to law school at 39, after an early marriage splintered into divorce.  Then she practiced in the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office for eight years, building up trial experience. (I found out all this later, of course, not while her student.)  She was also attractive, wore great suits which I much admired, and had good legs. She must have had the legs before she became a lawyer but they did add to her appeal as a role model. When the results of the Criminal Law exam, given in December, were posted in January, it appeared that sweating bullets had been of some merit as a methodology for learning law. I finished first in the class:  1/345.

Encouraged by early success, I made a mental note to take, in due time, the other course she taught, a third-year elective called Criminal Practice.  Which, in my third year, I did. This was not, as you might imagine, simulated courtroom practice in a classroom, although there was some of that — to somewhat prepare us for what awaited in a real court.  (“Objection!”  “Objection!” “Objection!”)  No, no.  We would actually be thrown to the lions.  Had I considered carefully, I might have had second thoughts. I have never done well with on-the-spot stress and angst.  (Stress and angst that I can take my time with, although not good, is part of life. By contrast, thinking fast on your feet doesn’t come up very often.) But I already had a job offer for when I would pass the bar. (God willing!) And so, with carefree abandon, I registered. What the hell. That was exactly the right word.  For me, hell is what it turned out to be.

It was then possible to offer live courtroom practice to students under a statute I can no longer cite permitting them to represent the Commonwealth in Massachusetts District Court (not to be confused with the federal District Court) under the supervision of an Assistant District Attorney.  This court had jurisdiction over only a few relatively minor criminal offenses. (Complaints involving weightier matters were brought in Superior Court.) The two I now remember were “‘Larceny Under” (thefts of under $100 in value) and “OUI”s (“Operating Under the Influence” — that is, drunk driving).  Over the semester, two OUI’s came my way.  I knew nothing of adroit cross-examination, how not to lead the witness, how to rephrase, or when to make my own objections.  Truth to tell, despite the 1/345 I knew nothing, and neither did any other law school student or graduate, about how to practice law, or how to try cases.

I nevertheless prevailed.  Bottom line: Nice-looking middle-aged lady in navy blue nunlike skirt suit actually won.  Both times.  In front of two separate six-person juries.  The second time, even the hitherto dour judge smiled approvingly. But the stress and angst to reach that result, the splitting headache that left the premises with me, were too high a price for prosecutorial triumph. At the end of the semester, I accepted the job offer from a (big) civil litigation firm, which provided plenty of stress and angst of its own, but spaced out over the next twelve years. Those two little OUI trials therefore became the only true war stories of my legal career — good examples of what thinking outside the box and life experience can do for you when opposing counsel and a not particularly friendly judge seem about to shut you down.

You want to hear?  My pleasure.  Another time.