• Jean Little, a young people’s author, was born with nystagmus, strabismus, eccentric pupils, and corneal opacities — in other words, she had very bad eyesight. Because of this, her parents thought that she was blind. One day, her mother, a pediatrician, was examining a small child who reached for her stethoscope. She felt sad because little Jean had never reached for anything. However, Jean’s parents noticed that she always moved to face the window when she was in bed, no matter how they placed her in the bed, so they realized that she could distinguish light from darkness. Finally, one day when her mother was feeding her, little Jean reached for a spoon, and her mother was so happy that she cried.
• When the ballet Rodeo opened, it was a smash hit with the audience applauding for 22 curtain calls. Even the musicians in the orchestra pit were giving a standing ovation — a sure sign of success. Agnes de Mille, who choreographed the ballet and danced the part of the Cowgirl, was responsible for much of the ballet’s success. An unsung hero was her mother, Anna, who supported Agnes through years of struggle. Asked if she was proud of her daughter after Rodeohad opened, Anna replied that she had always been proud of her daughter, including during the times when Agnes could find no one to give her work in dance.
• As a child, violinist Josef Gingold had a mother who was very supportive of his musical interests and of him. One Friday, a truant officer showed up at her house to tell her that Josef had missed school four Fridays in a row and was probably doing such things as playing pool with bums. Mrs. Gingold told the truant officer, “As a matter of fact, he’s in the other room practicing.” She then picked up a rolling pin and added, “He goes to the New York Philharmonic on Friday afternoons. Do me a favor, and leave this house. Next time I see your face, you’re going to get it over the head.”
• Children’s book writer Phyllis Reynolds Naylor grew up during the Depression, when money was hard to come by. Entering kindergarten, she had only two dresses: one with red checks and one with blue checks. Her mother told her that if she alternated the dresses, wearing one the first day and another the second day and so on, then everyone would think that she had more dresses than she really had. This made young Phyllis think how clever her mother was.
• Some young children are surprised that older adults have parents, too. Librarian Jeanette C. Smith once made friends with a 10-year-old girl who often came into the Minnesota public library where she worked. One day, Ms. Smith’s mother visited her, leaving as the 10-year-old girl arrived. The 10-year-old girl asked who the visitor had been, and when Ms. Smith explained that the visitor had been her mother, the 10-year-old girl exclaimed, “YOU HAVE A MOTHER!”
• The family of golfer Nancy Lopez was very supportive of her. Young Nancy was not allowed to wash dishes because she needed to protect her hands, and so her mother washed the dishes instead. In fact, her mother once decided not to buy a dishwasher so that she could use the money to pay for Nancy to play in tournaments instead. The sacrifice paid off. As an adult Nancy became a superstar golf player, and at age 10 she won a tournament by 110 strokes!
• Alexander the Great claimed to be the son of Zeus, the Greek god who was married to the goddess Hera. Alexander once wrote his mother, Olympias, and began his letter, “King Alexander, son of Zeus Ammon, greets his mother Olympias.” His mother wrote back, “My son, please don’t say such things. Don’t slander me, or bring charges against me before Hera. She really will have it in for me if you admit in your letter that I’m her husband’s lover!”
• When Julie Krone was young, she told her mother that she wanted to be a jockey. When her mother told the family veterinarian what young Julie wanted to do when she grew up, he advised her to knock Julie in the head. Her mother didn’t follow that advice; instead, she took Julie to the racetrack. Julie grew up to become a famous jockey.
• Once a mother, always a mother. Sculptor Louise Nevelson was justly proud of her son, Myron “Mike” Nevelson, who was also a sculptor. A friend of Mike’s once heard him on the telephone talking to his mother. The middle-aged sculptor said, “Yes, Mother. Yes, I’ve eaten. I had lunch. I haveeaten, Mother.”
• “I always encourage people to get into therapy, because it’s good for you and it’s not hard. It’s like a really easy game show, where the answer to every question is ‘My mom.’” — Robin Greenspan, quoted in Ed Karvoski Jr.’s book, A Funny Time to be Gay.
• When novelist Jackie Collins was raising the two daughters she had with Oscar Lerman, the first word she taught them was not “Mummy” (she was born in London), but “Anything.” Why? She wanted them to learn that they could do anything.
• Paul Gauguin’s mother knew that her son could be abrasive. After she died on July 7, 1867, she advised in her will that he start a career “since he has made himself so disliked by all my friends that he will one day find himself alone.”
• When Marc Cherry, the openly gay creator of TV’s Desperate Housewives, came out to his mother, she told him, “Well, I’d love you even if you were a murderer.” This line was so funny that he wrote it into the series.
• Actress Noreen Nash, one of the stars of Giant, found it easy to decide to give up shooting on location. After shooting a movie, she returned home and discovered that her two-year-old son barely knew who she was.
• When Twyla Tharp was young, her mother drove her hundreds of miles to music and dance lessons. Once, her mother estimated that during Twyla’s youth, she had driven young Twyla 30,000 miles to her lessons.
Chapter 15. How Candide Killed the Brother of His Dear Cunegund
Never while I live shall I lose the remembrance of that horrible day on which I saw my father and mother barbarously butchered before my eyes, and my sister ravished. When the Bulgarians retired we searched in vain for my dear sister. She was nowhere to be found; but the bodies of my father, mother, and myself, with two servant maids and three little boys, all of whom had been murdered by the remorseless enemy, were thrown into a cart to be buried in a chapel belonging to the Jesuits, within two leagues of our family seat. A Jesuit sprinkled us with some holy water, which was confounded salty, and a few drops of it went into my eyes; the father perceived that my eyelids stirred a little; he put his hand upon my breast and felt my heartbeat; upon which he gave me proper assistance, and at the end of three weeks I was perfectly recovered. You know, my dear Candide, I was very handsome; I became still more so, and the Reverend Father Croust, superior of that house, took a great fancy to me; he gave me the habit of the order, and some years afterwards I was sent to Rome. Our General stood in need of new recruits of young German Jesuits. The sovereigns of Paraguay admit of as few Spanish Jesuits as possible; they prefer those of other nations, as being more obedient to command. The Reverend Father General looked upon me as a proper person to work in that vineyard. I set out in company with a Polander and a Tyrolese. Upon my arrival I was honored with a subdeaconship and a lieutenancy. Now I am colonel and priest. We shall give a warm reception to the King of Spain’s troops; I can assure you they will be well excommunicated and beaten. Providence has sent you hither to assist us. But is it true that my dear sister Cunegund is in the neighborhood with the Governor of Buenos Ayres?”
Candide swore that nothing could be more true; and the tears began again to trickle down their cheeks. The Baron knew no end of embracing Candide, he called him his brother, his deliverer.
“Perhaps,” said he, “my dear Candide, we shall be fortunate enough to enter the town, sword in hand, and recover my sister Cunegund.”
“Ah! that would crown my wishes,” replied Candide; “for I intended to marry her; and I hope I shall still be able to effect it.”
“Insolent fellow!” cried the Baron. “You! you have the impudence to marry my sister, who bears seventy-two quarterings! Really, I think you have an insufferable degree of assurance to dare so much as to mention such an audacious design to me.”
Candide, thunderstruck at the oddness of this speech, answered:
“Reverend Father, all the quarterings in the world are of no signification. I have delivered your sister from a Jew and an Inquisitor; she is under many obligations to me, and she is resolved to give me her hand. My master, Pangloss, always told me that mankind are by nature equal. Therefore, you may depend upon it that I will marry your sister.”
“We shall see to that, villain!” said the Jesuit, Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, and struck him across the face with the flat side of his sword. Candide in an instant drew his rapier and plunged it up to the hilt in the Jesuit’s body; but in pulling it out reeking hot, he burst into tears.
“Good God!” cried he, “I have killed my old master, my friend, my brother-in-law. I am the best man in the world, and yet I have already killed three men, and of these three, two were priests.”
Cacambo, who was standing sentry near the door of the arbor, instantly ran up.
“Nothing remains,” said his master, “but to sell our lives as dearly as possible; they will undoubtedly look into the arbor; we must die sword in hand.”
Cacambo, who had seen many of this kind of adventures, was not discouraged. He stripped the Baron of his Jesuit’s habit and put it upon Candide, then gave him the dead man’s three-cornered cap and made him mount on horseback. All this was done as quick as thought.
“Gallop, master,” cried Cacambo; “everybody will take you for a Jesuit going to give orders; and we shall have passed the frontiers before they will be able to overtake us.”
He flew as he spoke these words, crying out aloud in Spanish, “Make way; make way for the Reverend Father Colonel.”