Christopher Kennedy Lawford, son of the late Rat Pack actor Peter Lawford and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, was born into a life of wealth, power and privilege. But as his new memoir details, such assets did not prevent him from becoming an alcoholic.
"Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption" examines Lawford's legendary parents and his life as a Kennedy, as well as his road to recovery. Below is an excerpt from his memoir.
You can always do it wrong.
That's the beauty of life. -- Anonymous
What happens when you are born with the American dream ful- filled? The dreams that drew my ancestors here had been realized for me at my birth. I was born just off the beach in Malibu, California. My father, Peter Lawford, was a movie star and a member of the Rat Pack. My mother's brother Jack would be president of the United States. I was given wealth, power, and fame when I drew my first breath. Now what?
My mother gave birth to me in Saint John's hospital in Santa Monica, California, on March 29, 1955, on the same day that Judy Garland gave birth to her son, Joe, in the same hospital. I was named Christopher because my mom liked the name and had a thing for Saint Christopher -- the giant Catholic saint who carried the baby Jesus and the sins of the world on his shoulders. I received a Saint Christopher medal on every birthday until he was decanonized when I was fourteen because the church determined that the evidence of his existence was entirely legendary. My name lost a bit of its luster on that day, and I remember wondering if the Church might be able to negate my existence also.
The circumstances of my birth were further extolled because Judy was up for an Academy Award that year for A Star Is Born and the press was keeping a vigil. Western Union delivered a boatload of telegrams to my parents from those known and unknown.
We're so happy for you both. He'll be quite a boy.
Love -- Jeanne and Dean Martin
Dear friends -- I'm so happy for you both and may I say you picked my favorite hospital for this epic event -- and I'm a man who knows about hospitals. Hello to Sister Mary David -- Bing Crosby
"Quite a boy."
I was just out of the womb and there were already lofty expectations from some pretty accomplished folk. Uh-oh! I better get my s*** together.
So thrilled for you both. Love Gary & Rocky Cooper
My aunt Ethel sent a telegram that read: What a difference a day makes. Whew. Little Ethel
She should know. She was pregnant at the time with her fourth child, David Kennedy, who would be born two and half months later and become my "best friend to the bitter end."
So Judy's son, Joe, and I were born on the same day to movie star parents in Hollywood, California, and the media were paying attention. From the moment I came into this world, I have had a bizarre and constant relationship with the media. They were rarely there to take a picture of me or get a quote from me, but I was always in the mix -- in the glow. I have known many people who have been touched by fame. For most of them -- whether movie stars, politicians, artists, or criminals -- it only lasts a short time. They go from ordinary to extraordinary and back again in the blink of an eye, but the damage done can last a lifetime. Once you have had a taste of the glare, it's hard to step back into shadows.
My family has maintained its currency with the press for most of my life. Very little we did went unnoticed. A flashbulb or television camera highlighted the ordinary events of life. Years later when I got sober, I realized for the first time that I thought everybody on the planet woke up every day and wondered what Chris Lawford and the rest of the Kennedy family were up to that day. In fact, it was something of a rude awakening when a friend of mine pointed out to me that "there are a billion people in China who don't know who your family is or more importantly, Chris, who you are!"
At the moment of my birth, my father was having lunch down the street at one of his hangouts, an ornate and hip Chinese bistro on Wilshire Boulevard named for its proprietor, the mysterious and everpresent Madame Wu. He was throwing down some of Madame's famous Chinese chicken salad with his sidekick and manager, Milt Ebbins, and talking to Cary Grant about the current state of affairs in Hollywood, as he awaited the call announcing the birth of his first child. Cary was reassuring him. Not about becoming a father but about his career.
"Don't worry, old man. As soon as you get a little gray in your hair, you'll work all the time. I didn't work for two years, my temples got gray, and it was a whole new ball game."
My dad began feeling a bit more optimistic, and then the call came. He thanked Cary for the encouragement by paying the tab and beat it to Saint John's, with the everpresent Milt in tow, just in time to see my mom being wheeled, semiconscious, out of the OR. A half hour later, he opened the door to her room to find her sitting up in bed with a bottle of J&B Scotch, ready to celebrate. "Come on in, boys, we've got a big beautiful boy. Let's have a drink." A few minutes later, the big beautiful boy was delivered to his celebrating mom and dad. My father looked down at me, saw my rather pronounced oriental features, and declared, "That's not my kid. He looks Chinese. Hey, wait a minute, Pat, wasn't the gardener Asian?" They laughed. And had another scotch.
My dad was right. I did look Asian. I was born with a Mongolian fold, which means that my eyelids droop slightly over my eyes. This condition is also referred to as "bedroom eyes" and I have milked it happily all my life. Thanks, Dad.
I was the first boy born to a mother who was the product of a family with a long and lusty tradition of glorifying and supporting the male. You can't get more fawned over than a Kennedy male. My mother had struggled against the yoke of being a talented and willful female in a family and society that didn't really care what the women were up to as long as they were having lots of babies. Her marriage to my father and her subsequent life in California were early attempts to find her own identity and be noticed outside of The Family. It's a miracle that I was born at all, given the fact that neither of my parents was the marrying kind. They were both thirty. Although my mom was feeling the pressure of being unmarried, her personality was like my father's. My parents were two willful human beings, from different worlds, used to getting what they wanted and having their own space. They must have really loved one another to give up that freedom.
When I was a kid my mom often recalled how she tried to escape that love. "I fell in love with your father the moment I laid eyes on him. He was so handsome. Grandpa sent me on a trip around the world to get him out of my system. It didn't work. I got to Japan and turned right around."
Like most women of her generation, all roads led to children and the creation of family. Procreation was the necessary evil in the grand purpose of bringing forth God's little angels. I've been told that my mom made the sign of the cross before engaging my father in the necessary evil. I don't know what she was praying for, but she was pregnant with me four months after saying "I do."
My grandmother Rose wrote a letter to my mom not long after I was born, advising her to write to the Lahey Clinic for high-potency vitamins so she could "get built up" and "not to wear falsies that are too prominent as they are not only cheap but tempt you know whom"! I assume Gramma was talking about my father. Well, it didn't work: after me, they had three more children.
Three girls: Sydney, Victoria, and Robin. A blond, a brunette, and a redhead. All the bases were covered. I was the only boy, the oldest, the king. The way it should be. Pure Kennedy.
When my mother married my father she made a monumental statement of independence from her own father, whom she adored. Joseph P. Kennedy, my grandfather, was the man from whom everything flowed. He was the power, the money, and the brains. My mother was the sixth child in a brood of nine. Her lightheartedness and vibrancy made her my grandfather's favorite. My mom called him Daddy, and his actions and words were glorified and sanctified. His story was legend: bank president at thirty, friend and confidant to FDR, ambassador to the Court of Saint James, Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, Hollywood mogul, and go-to guy in all things political. More than any male in my life, my grandfather represented everything a male should be. As I saw it, he was the architect of our world. There was a sense that everything the Kennedy family was came about as a direct result of my grandfather's will. On September 7, 1957, my grandfather predicted in an interview in the Saturday Evening Post that someday one of his sons would be president, one would be attorney general, and another would be a United States senator -- all this simultaneously.
It was not just about money and power with my grandfather. He was first and foremost about family. His will to power and wealth was about protecting his family. His kids loved him more than they feared or respected him. My mom told me when I was young, "Grandpa gave each of us a million dollars when we turned twenty-five. All of his friends told him not to do it, saying his kids wouldn't give him the time of day if they got all that money. It wasn't true. We all still can't wait to come home." You couldn't keep my mom and her siblings away from "Daddy and Mother." Later I figured out that although Grandpa gave his children the money to realize their independence, he never taught them what to do with it. I always assumed this was because he felt they were meant for higher pursuits. But it might have been about control.
There was no more dominant force in our world than "Daddy," and my mom was his little girl. My dad said to me that "your mother's love for her father took precedence over her love for me."
There is a thin line between love and hate. On the other side of this adoration for her father was a deep anger and resentment at not being allowed fully to live up to her potential. My mom also inherited my grandfather's interest in dramatics. And she was good at it.
"You know," she would say to me and my sisters, "before all of you were born and ruined my life I was a television producer for Father Peyton's Family Rosary Crusade, the program that made 'the family that prays together stays together' a household phrase and was seen all over the country." She was only half kidding. My mom had the talent to get her share of accolades in the professional world, and though she wore "putting her children first" as a badge of honor, I think she resented the limitation. Her proprietary outlook toward all things Kennedy was her way of participating in the bigger picture of the family's accomplishments.
My mother was more like my grandfather than were any of her siblings. She had a mind for money, a strong independent streak, and she could cut you off at the knees with "the look" just like the Old Man. There was no mistaking it when Joe Kennedy was unhappy with you. His displeasure burned in his eyes and straight into whoever was unlucky enough to cross him. I don't recall ever getting "the look" from my grandfather, but my mom more than made up for it so I have some idea just how unpleasant it might have been. My mother also had her father's instinct and luck when it came to making money. My grandfather often said that, "The one with the best business head is Pat. If she put her mind to it, she could easily take over the business."
I was seven when my grandfather became incapacitated with a stroke. My mom found out about it in December 1961 while she was driving my sisters and me to lunch. A stranger stopped her and said he had just heard on the radio that her "father just had a stroke." The only vivid recollection I have of him before his stroke was in a park in Washington on a cold day in January before going to President Kennedy's inauguration. He was wearing a topcoat and a hat. It was exciting to be with this man, who made my mother beam as he pushed me on a swing, saying, "You are going higher and higher, Christopher. You are going to fly like an eagle." Then he was gone. The next time I saw him he was in a wheelchair, but for the rest of my life, the voice in my head that only allows perfection and questions my choices would belong to my grandpa, Joseph P. Kennedy.
Shortly after the inauguration my mom shipped me back to California while she stayed on in Washington to make sure all was going well at the White House. A month later she sent me a note on White House stationery:
February 22, 1961
I arrived here yesterday to stay with Uncle Jack until tomorrow. Remember when you were here the day after the inauguration to see Uncle Bob sworn in as Attorney General? You really loved all the beautiful chandeliers so you must come back and see them soon. Love,
My mother spent a fair amount of time at the White House while my uncle was in residence. I know this because she would always bring me back the place cards and menus signed by some of the folks she was having dinner with: John Glenn, Douglas Dillon, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert McNamara, Lyndon Johnson, and so on. She might have been gone a lot but she was always thinking about her kids. And the White House chandeliers …
My father, Peter Sidney Lawford, was English, Protestant, and an actor, three characteristics that made my grandfather's skin crawl. When my father flew to New York to formally ask if he could marry my mother, my grandfather supposedly said, "If there's anything I'd hate more for a son-in-law than an actor, it's a British actor!" My mom told me that he advised her not to marry my father, "shaking his head as he left the room" after she told him.
My grandfather had my father checked out by everyone from Louis B. Mayer to J. Edgar Hoover and found that he probably wasn't a homosexual or a Communist, and he must have figured that he could live with my dad's philandering.
He ultimately approved the marriage, if only because he probably couldn't prevent it and he didn't want to lose his daughter. My mom was always willful and determined. Still, it took a lot of courage for her to marry my father in the face of my grandfather's misgivings.
I was born a bit prematurely and weighed six pounds thirteen ounces, possibly because my mother didn't like being pregnant and women then did not modify their lifestyles to accommodate fetal needs. She didn't show until the sixth month, ate like a bird, exercised compulsively, even skiing in the Canadian Rockies well into her seventh month. My father moved out of the Malibu house my mom and he had moved into soon after their marriage. It was a small two bedroom on the beach that once belonged to Gloria Swanson, who, it was said, had once had an affair with my grandfather. My grandfather had offered to buy them something substantial as a wedding present, but my dad didn't want to live in a house bought by his wife's father. My dad was working on a television series called Dear Phoebe and had commandeered the guest room at his manager's house in Beverly Hills. My dad had no idea how to deal with a pregnant wife and my eventual arrival. So he left, citing his need to be closer to work. My mom showed up a few days later. She told my dad that he wasn't getting rid of her that easily -- she was moving into the guest room too. My dad decided Malibu wasn't that far away after all. I was already causing panic in my parents, and I wasn't even here yet.
Another fact of my birth that was contributive to my budding uniqueness was that my grandmother Rose, for the first and last time, served as a nurse and helpmate at the birth of one of her grandchildren. She reminded me of this often, "You came a few days early, dear, and I was visiting your mother and father at the time, so I took charge and took care of you."
My grandmother might have taken charge, but she didn't hang around very long after my birth. She was a Kennedy, after all, and liked to keep moving, traveling being her remedy of choice. She jumped on a plane to Hawaii as soon as I was handed off to the appropriate caregiver. Still, three thousand miles of Pacific Ocean didn't diminish her ambivalence about leaving: "Heartbroken that I left so soon and I do not know why I did, except I thought I should be leisurely and I could have easily waited till Wed or even Thurs -- I did try to leave Tuesday but it was a day flight -- It is nice here but we would much rather be with you and Peter and Christopher. …"
My grandmother liked to move and rarely stopped moving. Some- times when you move, it doesn't feel so good. I would come to know both these states.Later in life, when locked in the battle with my cousins to secure the coveted title of Grandma's Favorite Grandchild, the fact that I was the only grandchild whose birth she actually attended, no matter how briefly, was my ace in the hole.
My mother and father used to hang out with their friends at the Beachcomber Bar on Channel Road in Santa Monica. Legend has it that we stopped there on the drive home from the hospital, with my parents proudly placing their newborn son with the Mongolian fold on the bar and ordering their favorite cocktails. I suppose they thought of it as sort of a hip Malibu neonatal unit. I wonder if this was when the imprint of alcoholism found me. Or did it always run in my blood? There are certain activities and professions in life that, once you are exposed to them, get into your veins and you're finished. You can't help but give yourself over to them. Show business and politics are like that. Once you get a taste, you're screwed. The fast, boozy beach bar life of my parents in 1955 was like that, too. Once my bassinet found its way onto the Beachcomber Bar I was toast. Yes sirree, we had privilege, power, and wealth. What we didn't know was that alcoholism ignores all that.
I was christened a month later by Cardinal Francis McIntyre at Saint Monica's Church in Santa Monica. My mom showed up with her father and a check for a hundred thousand dollars, which she delivered to the Catholic hospital of my birth before the holy water had evaporated from my tiny Catholic forehead. I'm sure all those zeros had something to do with the good cardinal showing up to do the honors. My father was there with his friend Peter Sabiston, who became my godfather and whom I never remember meeting or having anything to do with. My father's mother, Lady May Lawford, also attended, and managed not to make a spectacle of herself by dissing either me, my father, or the Kennedys -- which in and of itself was a minor miracle. If my father was my grandfather's worst nightmare, my mother was Lady May's. To her the Kennedys were "barefoot Irish peasants," and my mother was "a b****" who had trapped her beloved son into marriage.
If you believed the hype, my parents' marriage was storybook and pretty damn exciting. There were the presidential visits, the Rat Pack, Marilyn, weekly poker games with Hollywood's biggest and brightest, Vegas, Palm Springs, helicopters to work and an extra limo just for the bags whenever they traveled, which I guess was a lot because I don't remember them being around much.
In October 1961, Cosmopolitan magazine ran a cover story on my parents titled "Mr. and Mrs. Lawford, the Hollywood Branch of the Kennedy Family." The opening of the article read:
The tall, slender, athletic-looking young man was moving briskly back and forth between his living-room-sized bathroom and his billiard-room-sized bedroom, packing his monogrammed suitcases. Suddenly, he looked up. A small tousled (first-grade-sized) boy was standing in the doorway, arms akimbo. "Going away again, Dad?" The boy asked. His father nodded. The boy studied his father for a moment or two, then shrugged, lifted his hands, palms upward in a gesture of mock despair, turned on his heel, and walked out of the room. Six-year-old Christopher Lawford, like the rest of his famous parents' friends and family, has become resigned to their everlasting moving about from one of their glamorous worlds to another.
I don't remember the guy who wrote the article, but he must have been there because he sure got it right.
The article went on to describe a week in the life of my mom and dad where they "whoop[ed] it up at a Hollywood party with a group of the town's most notable, and nosiest, luminaries"; were "demure and decorous" at a high society dinner party in New York; and relaxed "over an informal supper at The White House with the President of the United States and his wife."
"To the average man or woman" the author noted, "an evening in any one of these worlds once in a lifetime might seem so tantalizingly remote as not to be worth wishing for. To Peter and Patricia Lawford, this is their life."
It was also the life I was promised. It was a promise never realized.
Soon after I got home from securing my spot in a Catholic cemetery with my celebrated baptism, two events took place that had a lot to do with how I would view the primary relationships in my life. The first pretty much sums up my relationship with my parents; the other was the birth of my best friend for life.
My father, who had been an only child and was desperately clinging to the remnants of his sacred beach life, decided that having a newborn in the house wasn't going to work for him. I imagine a conversation that went something like this:
"Pat, he cries all the time. I can't show up on the set with bags under my eyes. Plus the house smells like s***, it's getting into my clothes. Why don't we rent the apartment across the street for him."
"I don't know, Peter, have you noticed how pricey rentals in Malibu are these days?"
My mother might have felt that getting her newborn an apartment of his own was a waste of money, but she wanted her marriage to work, so at the tender age of two months I got a place of my own, a couple doors down from my family house, nice and cozy for me and the nanny.
The second event took place three thousand miles away in Washington, D.C., on June 15, 1955. It was the birth of my cousin and future best friend David Anthony Kennedy to my uncle Bobby and aunt Ethel. I would not realize its impact on me for many years.
I awoke from my afternoon nap irritable and discontented. My diaper was wet, and I wanted off my back and out of this goddamn crib. I spent way too much time in my crib. I was always waiting for someone to do something to me or for me. I spent my life either unconscious or waiting to be serviced. Not a bad life if you can get it. I made this work for me long after I was out of diapers. I wasn't as cute, but I was just as helpless. Too bad it doesn't last. Anyway, on this particular day I was once again waiting for them to come and take me out of the foursided prison with the stupid puppy dog mobile that dangled overhead in their failed attempt to keep me occupied. Today, three heads appeared over the railing: my mother, Mrs. So-and- So, who had been changing, feeding, and servicing me since the last Mrs. So-and-So, and somebody I had never seen before.
You know, now that I think about it, I don't think I was ever breast-fed. I can't be sure, but I'd lay odds. It was 1955 in America, and not many women in the upper echelon were cramming their mammaries into the mouths of babes. This isn't something I might be able to verify one way or the other. There are definitely no photos, and this would not have been a conversation my mother would be comfortable having, being old-school Irish and all.
My theory goes like this: Because I never bonded with my mother through suckling, I view the world as a dangerous place where everyone's out to f*** me over and no one can be trusted, especially women. The way to survive is to move fast, not commit, and grab as much s*** as you can to fill the hole. I see the world this way because my mother never put her breast in my mouth.
So, back to my crib and me, waiting for the tit that would never come, and the new person with the kind face and funny accent. I was captivated. Her name was Mademoiselle, and by the time she showed up, my parents had moved down the beach from Malibu to Santa Monica and into a house that was big enough to accommodate both my father and me. The rented apartment and succession of renta- nannies -- my life up to that point -- must have been unmemorable, because meeting Mademoiselle that day is the very first thing I remember in this lifetime.
Our new house was a beautiful Spanish monstrosity, which according to Hollywood lore had been built by the construction crews from Paramount Studios as a weekend retreat for Louis B. Mayer. It was big, with a large slab of marble surrounding a spectacular pool, nuzzled right on the beach. According to my mother the house was always in danger of being devoured by termites, and we were constantly being evacuated by the Army Corps of Engineers in anticipation of the giant tidal wave that would level everything on Sorrento Beach. None of it happened, but the drama kept us on our toes -- and it was fun running up to the top of the Pacific Palisades to wait in anticipation of the monster wave that would swallow our house.
S***, man, I had a nanny. I've always been in denial about this aspect of my upbringing. There was something too genteel and aristocratic about being raised by a nanny. My father may have been patrician in his outlook and habits, but the Irish rebel of Kennedy dominated our view of ourselves. Having a nanny would never do, so we called her by her name, Mademoiselle, which isn't a name, really, it's a way to greet a young single Frenchwoman. Hey, that's sexy. A young single Frenchwoman raised me. But my Mademoiselle wasn't sexy. She was cute and cuddly. She was warm and safe. And she had nothing but love for me and my sisters. She was the kind of person you couldn't help inventing cute names for. I called her Mammy, Mammy Frudy, and Frud. Mammy was my first relationship with unconditional love. I think this is why I remember the day I met her. This was a woman who knew how to love without an agenda and did what she said she was going to do. And, she gave us sugar tits.
Chrisstofere, I have special surprise for you.
What is it?
Calmez-tu, mon petit.
What is it?
I used to have this when I was a little girl in Paris.
Can I have it now?
Soyez-sage … Don't tell Mommy.
A sugar tit is butter and sugar wrapped in a rag. They're meant for sucking, not suckling, and though they may not be quite as meaningful as the real thing, they sure are good. It's hard not to remember someone who gave you a sugar tit.
When I was three years old I moved out of the nursery I shared with Mammy and into my own bedroom. My mom had decorated it with matching curtains, rug, and bedspreads in a motif of little soldiers with drums and bugles. I guess she figured the soldier motif would offset any pansy in me once my sisters started arriving. She was pretty aware that I was growing up in a house full of women. I didn't mind the soldiers, but the room was way too big. It scared the s*** out of me to sleep there. One night I awoke in the middle of the night and looked over at the twin bed next to the one I slept in. It was the place in my bedroom where the monsters would hide. I had never seen them, but I knew they were there. I just hoped I wasn't alone when they decided to show themselves. It must have been one or two o'clock in the morning. Everyone was asleep. The house was quiet and dark. The only light was coming from the small night-light that I was mercifully allowed to have in my bathroom. I awoke with the awareness and terror that it was still nighttime and I was alone. I sat up in my bed and looked to where the dreaded monsters might be. Up until this night they were never there, but I always knew my luck would run out. And it did. On the other side of the twin bed, leaning over and leering at me, was the devil himself, horns and all, in the flesh or whatever the devil is made out of. He was as real as anything I had ever seen in my short life, and after a double take I was out of my bed and into Mademoiselle's room before you could say sugar tit. I was only five but the Catholics had done their job.
Mademoiselle, there's this really ugly guy with horns in my room.
C'est une reve Christofere, you are only dreaming.
No Mammy, I swear he's there. I think it's the devil.
Why would the devil be in your room? You're such a good boy.
He was laughing and drooling and smacking his lips like he wanted to eat me.
Non. the devil wouldn't eat a good boy.
I don't want to take any chances. Can I sleep in here with you?
Allons. I'll get a gun and we can go take care of Mr. Devil.
Mademoiselle grabbed a toy gun, which seemed real enough to me, and we crept into my bedroom to see what we would find. Mademoiselle didn't believe Satan was sleeping with me but you'd never convince me of that. When we got there, the devil was gone but I wasn't at all sure he wouldn't be back. Mademoiselle agreed to stay in my room until the sun came up. She was there when I woke up. This impressed me.
My mother never gave me any slack when it came to being a "scaredy cat." After I was given the honor of having my own room, which I never really wanted, I would find ways to sneak into someone else's room when I got scared. My mom would sniff it out and magically appear to herd me back to face my demons. I never thought of going into my mother's or father's room. That would have been worse than what was under my bed.
My parents had separate bedrooms. I would go to visit with them when my mom was watching the news with Walter Cronkite and my dad was getting dressed for the evening festivities, but once the door leading to their wing of the house was closed, it was not a door any kid would want to open. It was dark, and both my parents slept hard. My mom slept in a king-sized bed with blinders over her eyes and all the windows open, so the breeze from the ocean was blowing the curtains all over the place -- like a wall of dancing ghosts. I would stand there at the side of her bed whispering, "Mummy, are you awake?" She rarely stirred. There is something terrifying in being unable to wake up a parent.
I wouldn't even think about going into my dad's room.
On the nights the monsters threatened, I would beg my mom to stay with me until I calmed down. She would for a while. Sitting on the side of my bed, brushing my hair back and telling me, "There's nothing to be afraid of, Christopher. It's only your imagination. Daddy and I are right downstairs." My eyes closed and she was gone.
When my mother came into my bedroom before going out, it was as if light itself walked into the room. She had lots of jewels, energy, and glamour. My room would be filled with her smell. She was this illuminated angel who represented a magical world that existed out there -- beyond the walls of my scary room.
During the day, one of my parents lay around on the chaise lounge reading a script in the sun. One taught me how to play touch football. Guess which was which.
My mom taught me how to play football by taking me out to the beach a couple times a week and sending me out on pass patterns. She was a Kennedy, and the fact that she had moved three thousand miles from the family didn't mean that her only son wasn't going to be proficient at the family game. When my mom was in town she drove us to school, helped with homework, and put us to bed every night, making sure we checked in with God before we crawled between the sheets. Once a week she would dismiss the staff and be a full-time mom from sunrise to sunset. I wondered why on these days we went to sleep when the sun was still up. I suspected that on these days my mom pushed the clocks ahead so that we'd go to bed an hour earlier.
This was my least favorite day of the week.
My mother had a breakfast of fresh-squeezed orange juice and toast in bed every morning. It was the one luxury she required. She would leave a note at the bottom of the stairs as to what time the staff should wake her. My father had his breakfast -- two three-and-a-halfminute soft-boiled eggs and burned toast with cold butter -- in the den. My parents were not morning people and knew better than to be in close proximity to each other during this time of day.
This is excerpted with permission from "Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption" by Christopher Kennedy Lawford. Copyright & copy; 2005 by William Morrow.