By Kate Mayfield
As the daughter of an undertaker, Kate Mayfield experienced a very unconventional childhood. It was 1959, and she was just beginning grade school when her father moved the family to Jubilee, Kentucky. There he fulfilled his dream when he opened a funeral home in the family residence.
Funerals were commonplace in the family home. One of four children, Kate learned to be quiet and essentially invisible, but never by choice. While her older siblings were able to have activities outside the home, she struggled with this imposed solitude throughout her childhood.
Kate takes us through her developing years. She tells what it was like with a busy, charismatic father and a stoic, unhappy mother. Her brother was smart and easygoing, but her older sister had serious anger issues, often striking out at Kate and her younger sister. It isn’t until much later that these issues are painfully addressed.
Kate tells of the difficulty of trying to fit in with schoolmates. Friendships don’t come easy to a child growing up in a “creepy” funeral home. Her closest friends end up being the family housekeeper, and an eccentric elderly friend (and eventual benefactor) of the family.
Kate’s story is much more than being an undertaker’s daughter, however. She writes with candor of early forbidden love, racism, and the complexities of growing up in small town USA during the turbulent 1960s. In addition, she offers interesting historical background of her home town and its people.
Ultimately, Kate Mayfield has written a beautiful memoir. Sharing her experiences with clarity and insight, she draws you in with honesty and keeps you there with keen emotion. I loved this memoir.