Meritocracy and its Discontents   /   Summer 2016   /    Essays

The Murderer’s Mother

John J. Lennon

Mother and Child, c.1945, by Will Barnet (1911–2012); Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC/Art Resource, NY; art © Will Barnet Trust/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

My mother paid for my trials, made my amends, then watched me get convicted.

Imagine it’s the 1960s and you’re eighteen, already married and pregnant and living in a cookie-cutter house on Long Island. Your husband is this Italian guy, ten years your senior, who makes you cook and clean and have babies. When you don’t do as you’re told, he slaps you around. You give him two sons and a daughter: first Joseph, then Eugene, then Michelle. You eventually file for divorce and leave him and the kids. It’s the only way out.

You look like a young Susan Sarandon, even after having three children, and the men can’t stay away. In the mid-seventies you marry a smooth Manhattan bartender, an Irishman who hides his alcoholism. He woos you with his brogue, gets you pregnant, then leaves you with a big fat baby boy, John.

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