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LIFE WITH THE EASTER BUNNY/ Daniel Akst The first person to answer our ad wasn't suitable at all. Under "last residence" on the form we made up for these prospective roommates she put down a place with "Manor" in its name, and during the interview Mother seemed airily indulgent, almost humoring. She didn't even take any notes, which told me the woman had no chance. "Manor my foot," Mother said later, and I could see jutting from her mules the sharp, painted naUs and the toes crabbed from years of cutting -edge footwear. She was sure that the "manor" had been a mental institution, and her judgment in such matters was usually good. The next person wasn't much of a fit either, it turned out, although she actuaUy moved into my old room for a couple of weeks. She ran an elevator at Lord & Taylor, white gloves and everything, and Mother's instincts about this straight-backed individual turned out to be right, or if not right, then they simply got sufficiently in the way of things to cause trouble. It wasn't all our fault; I admit our housekeeping wasn't up to the standards of someone in a position like Miss Butterman's, what with the tub and all ("so many rings you'd think it was Saturn," she wrote to her sister in Providence, on a postcard I was sure she wanted me to read), but she was someone who let little things get to her, like the café au lait the three of us drank, Mother and I and the cat, that is. We never offered her any, but we felt, Mother and I, that that would be crossing some line between family and tenant. Miss Butterman's remonstrations about the evil effects caffeine was sure to have on "young ladies and dumb animals" fell on deaf ears. "Well now it seems that Miss Butterman, a complete stranger to man, child or beast, is going to tell me how to raise a family," Mother said with haughty surprise, as if the notion that she needed any advice of this kind was so preposterous that you just had to laugh. Miss Butterman didn't approve of our smoking together, either. Tm not even sure I approved, for that matter. It was confusing. Like any adolescenti wanted to hide some things from Mother, the usual stuff at least, but there was Uttle that she minded except the air of normatity that I craved. We were supposed to be co-conspirators. She cut holes in my bra cups, tried to sponsor my exploits, explained all about boys. They sounded dumb Ui her telling, but I was still pretty leery and went to school with my books firmly clasped to my chest, flanked by a bodyguard of girlfriends and gossip. The Missouri Review · 61 I became a project for Miss Butterman, who tried to get me to stand up straight and wear white gloves to school. The gloves part wasn't so bad, actually; I created quite a stir in those things, touching someone's arm in a show of intimacy and noblesse, or fingering an earring to show off my jawbone. A couple of other girls started wearing them, and then one added a pillbox hat, until it got too hot out and we gave the whole thing up. It was true, we were without discipline. In the early Seventies, nobody had discipline. We'd never even heard the word. Anyway, the gloves couldn't save Miss Butterman. When we finally got rid ofher she said I was the one she really felt bad for, but I think by that time she felt bad for herself. She was a born aunt, I concluded , and for almost a full minute I lamented the tragedy of her thwarted destiny. Then we had to pay for another ad, and this time Mother said she was going to be more accurate in describing us, so as to spare everyone disappointment "down the road." In retrospect I see that Mother didn't want a roommate, she wanted a man, and in the age before personal ads were common (Mother would have...


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