When I was 13, my mother died. Three years later, my father married again. In between, before and still, is Laurine. Laurine who raised me.

A child's universe is bounded not by cosmic particles but by parents. My mother hung the sun and my father the moon, but Laurine tossed the stars.

Laurine is a diminutive black woman, chin-high to me now, but she can lift any piece of furniture made. She cooked, sewed, ironed, cleaned, picked up after me, spoiled me, scolded me. She made yellow cakes and chocolate icing from scratch and always saved the bowl for licking when I came home from school.

She was the keeper of my high-school flames, and unlike my father, was willing to love them all for my sake. She knew the secrets to be kept and the ones to be passed along.

When my mother died, it was Laurine who went through the attic with me, and the jewelry box and the costume trunk. It was Laurine who packed me when I went away, and who turned down the bed when I came back. She remained a constant in a world that went awry.

In 22 years, the family lines have blurred. I took Laurine to a big revival years ago to hear her in the choir, and sat alone at the back of the church. Two dozen people came over to speak: They knew me for "Laurine's baby."

When I got my first apartment, she helped me move. When I couldn't find the hammer in it, I called her and she knew. When I moved to Washington, she came up to "settle" me.

I was a child who could not be deterred from making every mistake for myself. But Laurine tamed her wild one by letting her run, and she kept me closer to home by never trying to hobble me.

I have ghosts, but they don't haunt me. Mother, stepmother, and Laurine. World without end. CAPTION: Illustrations 1 through 3, no caption, O. Soglow; Copyright (c) 1932, 1960 The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.