Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?

The Enduring Mystery of Temperament

By Marian Sandmaier

May/June 2009

One afternoon not long ago, my body mocked my pretensions, toppled my carefully constructed persona, and forced me to rethink who I am.

I was lounging at the dining room table late on a Sunday afternoon, perusing the local newspaper and wearing my favorite home-alone attire—faded linen capris, a baggy yellow T-shirt, and ancient bedroom slippers. I had a cup of ginger tea going; somewhere in the background, NPR's American Routes played a bluesy riff by John Prine. As far as I was concerned, life didn't get much better than this.

Just then, I heard slapping footsteps on the stairs leading up to our front porch. The screen door whined open. Voices. Muffled laughter. Youthful. Female. More than one.

The next thing I knew, I was on the second floor of our house, breathless, half-crouching in the hall. I had no sense of "going upstairs." I knew only that in one moment, I was loafing in the dining room and in the next I was on another floor, panting.

From my guard post at the top of the steps, I heard my daughter, Darrah, then 22, enter our front hall in the company of two other young women, their speed-of-light discourse punctuated by raucous laughter. Now I recognized the other voices; they belonged to friends of my daughter whom I'd known since they were in the sixth grade. Both were warm, engaging young women who I'm sure would have liked to say hello to me.

But all of that occurred to me later. In that moment I knew only:…

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