My mother and I talked a lot about the Burgess family. “The Burgess kids,” she called them. We talked about them mostly on the telephone, because I lived in New York and she lived in Maine. But we talked about them also when I visited her and stayed in the hotel nearby. My mother had not been in many hotels, and it became one of our favorite things: to sit in a room – the green walls stenciled with a strip of pink roses – and speak of the past, those who had left Shirley Falls, those who had stayed. “Been thinking about those Burgess kids,” she’s say, pulling back the curtain and looking toward the birch trees.
The Burgess kids had a hold on her, I think, as a result of the fact that all three had suffered publicly, and also my mother had taught them years before n her fourth-grade Sunday-school class. She favored the Burgess boys. Jim, because he was angry even back then and trying to control it, she felt, and Bob because his heart was big. She didn’t care much for Susan. “Nobody did, far as I know,” she said.
- Elizabeth Strout
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