Freudiana, I’m not a screw factory. It has to be something special to be with him. Otherwise what’s the point?

Freudiana, how are you? I haven’t seen you in a long time. Your hair is styled; not mine. Can’t stand my hair. Let it fall. It glistens, you tell me.

He said, Cutting ages you.

Longer is younger, I said. Do I need you telling me about my hair?

Vogue says, Shorter is younger.

Also, who’s Hal to tell me not to help my child? Before we flew to London, I handed my son, Van, four signed emergency checks.

Children need to be independent, Hal said.

But Van’s to be a father. His new wife’s his age at thirty-three and has gone through all hospital procedures for Baby Girl’s premature bleeding. You never know…

Sydney, her mother, is devoted to Van. I couldn’t have picked a better mother for her—warm, caring, and tall, unlike most redheads. He’s a towhead. They’re quite a pair.

Hal asks, Do they live together? Sydney’s still in her co-op studio her father bought her. Van’s in his place. This man, Hal, I see, objects. Strange.

Who cares? Van’s wife supports him.

Hal says, She should return to school for a better job.

But Sydney’s master’s in theatre helps. She waits tables between tryouts.

Her workplace will cater their wedding. Afterward, she’ll work there. Van’ll care for their baby. As she grows, she can do art with her father. Boys tear around so. Van did. If Baby Girl’s Mama and Papa work, I’ll pay for the babysitter.

My one child’s an artist. Hal’s two are physicians, glorified mechanics. Van sees things others do not and creates them. Van recreates our Cajun music.

We’re between angels and worms, Freudiana.

You never know how your child’s character will play out. I’m proud of his caring for his 88-year-old violin teacher. I was a second violinist; I understand strings pulled. When this aged musician goes to Juilliard to teach, Van practices violin and does ceramic sculpture.

In New Orleans, my mother perfected French, my first tongue. My tutor hung a genuine della Robbia mother-and-child enamel over terra cotta.

Van stops his ceramics in time to teach violin and perform. If music’s a dead-end, he’ll qualify as a della Robbia. Van’s blue is so pure.

Hal was mad I didn’t invite him to the wedding. I took my girlfriend instead. My son’s new father-in-law is a clothier. The wedding dress was beaded and embroidered, like a Gaultier.

* * *

My husband drove all over Texas and Louisiana roads. I was glad.

In church, they’d ask, Does Van have a father?

When my parents were alive, they’d say, Watch out, you two’ll split apart. I did the splitting.

Never was religious; he was not at all. Never went to church. Then, my Lawd, he got religion. No being around him. My son asked, Do I have a father? But his father discovered a Father.


People ask why I’ve gone with many men. But I ask how you can stay with one.

This Hal’s impossible.

Van asks, Maman, when you’re eighty, who’ll care for you? Are you still going to date?

I’d rather be with the South Asian I met in church than sit put. He possesses a fine temperament and good breeding. He may have two families, apart from him.

But he took me to Paris. A perfect gentleman.

Do you know I rediscovered another at my high school reunion? He sent me to Middlebury to recover my French. I’m French, not Cajun.

This dentist taught me a lot. He was generous with gifts. I learned from him that our saliva is foul.

* * *

You ask me not to call you Freudiana. You are a woman of good breeding. What nerve, Hal telling me not to give anything to my son, and not giving enough to him, as my boyfriend. He reminds me of his wife’s lavish gifts.

I remind him of the two sweaters I gave him. Hal wants to be warm.

Well, he blesses his former girlfriend for her generosity, like the watch and porcelain blue and white plaque honoring him on his fiftieth birthday.

She paid for her side of their arrangement. He dumped her for me.  

* * *

Men always want mothers, not too motherly, you tell me, Freudiana. And women want fathers, not too fatherly or overly loverly.

Hal’s unhappy about my son’s wedding. I cannot pursue unhappiness.

Hal’s opera, jazz clubs, and Shakespeare tire me out. He insists on going to Shakespeare on a work night.

Not tonight, sweetie, I say. Before work, I need sleep. Imagine, he wouldn’t pay for my cab or subway trip home.

Also, he asks, Why keep old furniture?

I say, Family antiques I love in my co-op, my palace. I’m happy to return after work to sit in old chairs from the days of real families.

My mother and father stayed together forty-nine years. After he died, I called her every day at five o’clock. Her voice weakened. We tried providing for you. Don’t remarry, if you don’t want to.

Once your parents go, you’re on your own.

* * *

Freudiana, dance with me? We’ll find new guys. Van and his bride welcome us. Hal will give us the high sign from the ballroom wall. You possess the saddest, most beautiful sea green eyes to dance in.


Busing across Afghanistan and Iran led Jean Verthein to write about the wonders of survival. Counseling and teaching as an Adjunct Professor in Public Health and Social Work has been invaluable to me. Two Ragdale Foundation grants and a Sarah Lawrence College encourage publishing in St. Ann’s Review, Downtown Brooklyn, Absaloose, Adelaide, Green Mountains Review, River Press Review, Gival Press and others.