My teenager has been on a fudge-making bender this week, sizing up recipes, sourcing out inexpensive tins, buying ribbon to neaten up her gifts. Last evening, while I was lying gracelessly on the floor in my end-of-long-day stupor, she busily cut peppermint-stick and walnut-studded chocolate fudge and carefully packed the pieces with tissue paper into her bright tins.

She offered up her extras as gifts for me to give away. To the new neighbors, for instance.

Mom, she said, I’m making you look good.

I closed the Shirley Jackson bio I’m reading and looked at her. It’s been a long – perhaps too long a time – since I cared all that much about looking good. Somehow, in the years’ jumble of babies and breastfeeding, sugaring and bills, basketball games and sleepovers, I shifted to “not looking all that bad” as satisfactory enough.

Truth is, the girls do make me look good. Years ago, I would have considered this ancillary boon a trivial notion, hardly worth anything at all. How the world does change. I’m going to walk down the icy road to the neighbors, knock on the door, and offer up that gaily-wrapped fudge in full disclosure of its creator – with great joy.

Here’s a few lines from my library book….

Shirley Jackson saw herself, it seems clear, as a version of a writer…. (whose role) was to draw back the curtain on the darkness within the human psyche…. thousands of unsuspecting readers who opened The New Yorker on June 26, 1948, were confronted by a story (“The Lottery”) unlike anything they had ever read before. They admired it, they raged at it, they were puzzled by it; but no matter their reaction, it illuminated their world.

– Ruth Franklin, Shirley Jackson, A Rather Haunted Life

Photo by Molly S.

By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.


  1. myself, I shoot for not looking like a complete asshole at least half the time. Now I’m thinking I might want to raise the bar a bit.

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