(Telling Our Stories Press
#246 --- 185 AJK Blvd.
Lewisburg PA 17837)Katherine McCord does the same things that many of the rest of us do. Has babies. Tries to raise them intelligently and well. Has husband. Loves husband. Has pre-husband family. Tries to communicate with them.
And (alas), also like some of us, has panic attacks. She, like the rest of us, tries to survive her panic attacks with some degree of aplomb, not scaring friends and family too much.. Sometimes she succeeds, sometimes she fails.
Oh yes. The CIA. Figured prominently in her life ... still does.
- My father worked for the CIA.
- He never divulged his secrets.
- His secrets have informed my life.
- His secrets I do not know.
- There is probably horror behind those secrets.
- It is not possible to heal from such horror.
- It is only possible to go on.
Here, "CIA" turns into a variation on one of those ancient Greek Curses, the ones that nagged Elektra and Oedipus and the whole Atreus clan. The gift that keeps on giving,
So amidst all the tales --- most of them quite gentle and funny --- of raising two girls and taking them to school and going to the store and cleaning up the house and going to bed at night and trying to be a good wife and good mother, there is this current, this "something's just not quite right," something a little malefic in her family ... which may explain mother's absent-minded responses to questions about their time in Miami and Nepal and Liberia and Katmandu. Might even explain the panic attacks.
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McCord is so convinced of this taint in their lives that she has sent several letters to --- even called --- the CIA to determine when and how and where her father was with them. As you can imagine, her communications with them are a bit one-sided, their responses a bit sparse. But this connection pervades her life. Her youngest daughter hates school, so they talk about "her hardships with friends and crabby teachers and injustices, bullies and drudgery and antiquated teaching practices:"
We're all undercover, I say. You're the granddaughter of a covert man. A spy. You are special in that way. Act, I say, like it's normal. Act, I say, like it all makes sense. Act, I say, like your biggest goal in life is to get an A.
Ms. McCord is a charming writer, and I was knocked out by my CIA, oops, I mean, My CIA. There is a mix here of the normal and ordinary life, and the very exotic if now existentially threatening previous life. When I read the title and author and started in on the book I naturally thought that she was somehow related to James McCord. For us ancient fans of the Watergate, McCord was a key figure in the unraveling of the whole mess. But no: this McCord was not that McCord, at least I think not (when it gets to this spy business, things are never what they seem to be so I may be wrong.)
Withal all this hush-hush stuff, there is something else going on: that McCord is someone that you and I would enjoy visiting and having a glass of wine with and talking about taking care of children and the spooks out there in the government and those panics that sometimes bloom up inside of you larger than life. She's a stylist well capable of blending the banal and the scary. Take this brief absurdist rant --- being the entire contents of page 102 which follows an aside on page 101 ("I clip an article out of the paper. 'Emergency Preparedness: The First Three Days.'")
I reread the article on emergency preparedness and take note. Rain gear. We need rain gear. We also need coins. For plugging into smashed vending machines for stale crackers and Moon Pies? I think. Why not just tip the machines over? You anarchist, I think. Criminal. Looter. The girls and my husband shaking their heads. All geared up and standing behind me in their raincoats.--- Sarah Lee Fox, MA