As a teenager in the late '60s, I had a surprisingly close relationship with my mother. She was a steady and empathetic confidante, in contrast with school friends, who could change their alliances so quickly.

In some ways, I idolized her. Mom was a traditional wife and mother who clearly loved her role. She was also quite beautiful in a stay-at-home kind of way, favoring demure twin sets and skirts.

One afternoon, when I was a junior in high school, Mom was doing laundry as I confided in her about my day. Folding the last towel, she said, "Janice, I think you're ready to hear a story from my past."

What could it be? Perhaps, I thought, another captivating tale about her life growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan during the 1930s.

"Honey, I was married before I met your dad," she ventured.

Stunned, I asked, "Mom, is Daddy my real dad, then?"

"Oh, honey, of course he is," she replied.

"Well, then, that's really cool, Mom," I said, unsure exactly what to say.

My mother looked relieved. But before I could ask for the juicy details, she blurted out: "Darling, you took that very well. I was actually married twice before."

Janice Burne, Potomac

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