Swallow the Ocean: A Memoir
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Set in 1970s San Francisco, Swallow the Ocean is redolent with place. In luminous prose, this memoir paints a most intimate portrait of what might have been a catastrophic childhood had Laura and her sisters not been resilient and determined enough to survive their environment even as they yearned to escape it.
Table of Contents Title Page Dedication Epigraph San Francisco—1976 PART ONE - Riptide Chapter One - 1972 Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six PART TWO - Drowning Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen PART THREE - Sea Level Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Acknowledgements
father would hand Sara the check for alimony and child support. The three of us made the slow walk up the long concrete stairs to the sidewalk above the street—then on up into our building. We could feel my mother watching from the window. She did not actively obstruct our seeing my father, but she wanted us to spend as little time in his presence as possible. The time of our return was one of the fronts in the multipronged battle she waged against my father. My father, feeling we needed as
lacked the instinct for dissembling that Amy and I quickly acquired. Sara, who stumbled again and again into my mother’s fury unwary and undefended. Sara, whose body stretched inexorably towards womanhood, filled with the threat and promise of sexuality, which seemed in itself an affront to my mother. She would have kept us all small, towed behind her by the invisible string of her will, like the baby ducks in the Tea Garden, knowing nothing but their mother’s wake. Sara would not stop growing.
the darling of her father’s congregations, watching him in the pulpit every Sunday, first from her mother’s lap and then from her own seat up front in the children’s choir. My mother’s father, Amos, both demanded and commanded respect. Charming, charismatic, overbearing, he saw his own life as a morality tale, to be shared with children, grandchildren, family, or friends—anyone in need of moral instruction. He’d been a farm boy in rural Missouri, a ruffian, he claimed, who was saved by the
yourselves,” or any of the other endearments she’d used when we were kids. Just an awkward pat on the shoulder and “Good-bye.” Cars pushed their way in and out of busy downtown traffic on either side of us. I kissed my mother’s wilted cheek and turned to go. She stood there until we were gone—made us walk away from her—to ensure we didn’t try to follow her home, I suppose. Kait ran ahead to push the button for the elevator, and then we all waited, anxious now to get to our cars, our homes, our