Cousin Michael and his spectacular family are visiting us for Thanksgiving. Michael, one of Dr. M’s Chicago cousins, was, from earliest days, one of my daughter, Anna’s, favorite relatives. Anna liked all her cousins, but for some reason, Michael held a special place in her heart.
There were fond memories of their horsing around in the back seat on car trips to our cabin in Michiana (sixty-five miles from Chicago), with Anna and Michael playfully reenacting the classic “Bart-Lisa” car trip scene from the Simpsons, popularly known as, “Ow! Quit it!” Cousin Michael grew up and became an attorney.
So here we go…
As part of the application process, Anna, wrote her college entrance essay on how much she admired Martha Stewart. Anna had always been a huge fan of Martha’s show, fascinated at the “Queen of Household Know-How’s” talents for cooking and crafts, and, I suspect, intrigued by a woman who was actually at home – although she wasn’t really at home, she was in a studio made up to look like her home. Regardless – the kid has a fantasy, you leave it alone.
Martha Stewart was the closest thing my daughter had to a hero – an accomplished woman who could make crepe paper flowers and decorate a wedding cake in thirteen minutes.
When Martha had her trouble with the law, Anna’s loyalty was put severely to the test. And not just the obvious test – the test of, “How do you feel when a person you admire is accused of a crime?” – that would have been easy, she’d have sided with Martha.
Anna’s challenge, however, was intensified by an ironic twist of fate only life itself could provide. It turned out that, who would be prosecuting Martha Stewart for her questionable insider trading activities?
At the time, Cousin Michael worked in the U.S.Attorney’s office in New York City. It had fallen to him to prove Martha guilty, and put her in the slammer.
At first, Anna’s reaction to this uncomfortable turn of events seemed casual, almost flip. When asked what the appropriate bail would be for Martha Stewart, she immediately replied:
“Ten thousand brownies.”
As the trial date approached, there was an exchange of muted phone calls. Donning his “Attorney Hat”, Cousin Michael explained how it was unacceptable for people to lie to Federal agents. To which Anna plaintively whined,
“But it’s Martha.”
It was a terrible dilemma. Our family was caught in the crosshairs of history. However the world perceived the trial, for Anna it was:
"Martha Stewart versus Cousin Michael."
As a father, I stood helplessly on the sidelines, inwardly wailing, “Why is this happening!” Because of some stock crime that had nothing to do with us, my family had been torn asunder.
I imagined this was akin to what it was like during the Civil War, when one brother fought for the North, and the other for the South, though, in this case, Anna was fighting on both sides. And nobody was getting killed, and no slaves were being freed. But on a fundamental level, where analogies are cut a little slack, it was very much the same.
Anna’s reaction to the final verdict? She said she was proud of her cousin but sad for Martha. But I sensed in her a disquieting feeling of loss. Anna’s “perfect person” has been exposed as being flawed.
A matchless porcelain teacup had revealed a crack, a crack that despite the seven different varieties of “Super Glue” she has stored in her impeccably arranged “Crafter Cupboard”, even Martha Stewart could not mend.
READER ALERT: Tomorrow: My first ever guest blogger. Check it out.