She wrapped chicken livers in bacon. Scallops too. She wrapped water chestnuts in bacon, though I never really saw the point. When you had bacon on the outside of something, why put a vegetable on the inside? It struck me as a crucial loss of nerve. She became obsessed for a while with club sandwiches, layered with bacon. This was because of the pool that she and Dad decided to put in the forested yard behind our house in Avon, Conn., outside of Hartford, to which Dad's firm transferred him from New York just before I turned 13. It was a grand, ludicrous pool, out of sync with the family's usually sensible spending habits, a splurge exponentially larger than anything before it. It was 20 yards long, so that Mark, Harry and I could do meaningful laps in it if we wanted. It resembled a lake, its deck punctuated with enormous boulders that jutted toward, and hung slightly over, the water. Given all the money that went into it, Mom all but demanded, from mid-May to late September, that we get ourselves out there and enjoy it, and so she developed what she considered pool-friendly cuisine: guacamole with chips, crudités with dip. And club sandwiches.
The fact that the sandwiches had turkey in them allowed her to tell herself that she was making something healthier than hamburgers or hot dogs. She always bought freshly carved turkey or cooked turkey breasts herself and carved them. She carefully toasted the white or wheat bread (her choice depended on her mood and dieting cycle) so that it was firm and golden brown, discarding slices that emerged from the toaster too dark. Then she cut the sandwiches into triangular quarters, crucial to her insistence that this was just piddling poolside finger food. A person could have just a quarter sandwich — just a nibble. Who was she kidding? No one in our family stopped at a quarter or even two quarters, and I usually didn't manage to put the brakes on before five or six.
I had more discipline and did better with other things: chemistry, American history, Steinbeck, Wharton. At Loomis Chaffee, the private school outside of Hartford to which Mom and Dad sent us, I got A's in my classes and had editing positions on school periodicals and was a star on the swim team. I was, as Mom and Dad had always prodded me to be, well rounded. Only, the rounded part, well, I felt that it applied to me just a little too literally.
I either had 6 or 7 or 12 pounds that wouldn't go away: I never knew exactly how many, because at a certain point I just stopped getting on scales. I didn't like what they told me. I was about 5-foot-10, only three-quarters of an inch under what I'd grow to be, and according to those rigorous medical charts of ideal weights at certain heights, I should have been 170 pounds. But I often weighed above 180, and I could blame only some of those extra pounds on big bones and a genuinely broad frame.