Behind Every Great Woman

July 29, 2010 at 8:51 am Leave a comment

If a great woman stands behind every great man, is the converse true as well?  Not to fly the flag of feminism, but we all know the answer:  a resounding ‘sometimes.’ 

I will say, though, that back-staging one singularly great woman—my mother, Peg Bracken—was another just as noble:  Selma Haynes, a name familiar to I Hate to Cook Readers as the creator of Selma’s Best Oatmeal Cookies.

What made her grand?  While my mom toiled away eight hours a day, writing her world-famous bestseller, Tante Selma, as I called her, opened her home and looked after me from early morning till early afternoon, Monday through Friday. 

Much more than a babysitter, it was Selma who enabled Mom to don the writer’s millstone and lock herself away.  It was Selma who let her pursue the dream that would lift us out of a sorry home situation.  And it was Selma who kept me from becoming a casualty all too common in literary families:  one keeping a lonely vigil outside the garret. 

Like the eponymous dessert, Selma was a real treat.  From the time I was a tike till we left Portland, Oregon, when I was nine, Selma enveloped me in a world any young lass would love:  learning to knit; making tapioca pudding and, of course, delicious oatmeal cookies; strolling through the park; or just doing little gratifying girly things.  (These were the days when fun didn’t need AC power or a graphic user interface.)

Ask the family of any author.  Serious writers like my mother have rich internal lives, and often find it hard to stop parsing phrases while passing time with those around them.  Try though they might, sometimes they can only share part of themselves.  I knew that about Mom, even early on.

Still, I felt so lucky.  She gave me everything she had.  And sweet Selma gladly gave me the rest.


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