children but not fully grown, were left in
All her life, Betty Smith bemoaned the
fact that she didn’t have a college degree.
Education was of paramount value to her.
But when her first child graduated from
Carolina in May 1944, the town’s most
famous citizen was not there.
“It was really very hard for me,” Pfeif-
fer remembers. “I was all alone; everybody
had a family coming. I was Phi Beta
Kappa. I went to the stadium by myself. I
went up and got the diploma, and I just
Actually, Yow pieced together letters
and realized that Smith was not out on
tour. She was at home in Chapel Hill but
— according to a letter to Jones, who was
still stationed in Virginia — had experi-
enced an emotional breakdown and called
for a doctor.
Pfeiffer has had a long time to contemplate the motives behind her mother’s
actions. She doesn’t think it was jealousy.
“I think she just got caught up in this life
and the publicity and the book.
“She was constituted not to be happy.
She had all this economic stuff stacked up
against her; her own background. Person-
ally, she was always looking for something
she couldn’t ever find. Her only outlet was
writing. She created a lot of the life she
would have liked to have had and didn’t.”
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