I remember J (my niece) visiting us when she was about 12. My wife and I compared her to our daughter, a year or two older, very unfavorably, and predicted that J would be a very messed up adult as she grew older. We lost all contact with my sister and my niece for a number of years.

When we were living in Oregon a number of years ago, J called us one day and told us that she was going to college in California and working in a conservation program for youth. She asked if she could visit us. At the time, my daughter was attending college at Oberlin in Ohio.

When J came to visit us, my wife and I, expecting a very messed up young adult, were surprised to meet a pleasant, mature, self-possessed young woman. We took her out to dinner and had a lovely time. She came to visit us a couple more times, eventually bringing along a boy friend, S, she had met at college. He also proved to be an intelligent, courteous, and delightful young man. Both niece J and boy friend S graduated together with degrees in environmental engineering of some sort. They moved to the east coast of the United States and got married. A few years ago, I attended a couple of family reunions on the East Coast, organized by my Aunt Naomi and financed by her millionaire daughter, my cousin Joanna. Now living in Vermont, both niece J and her now husband S attended. They not only attended, they served as brilliant organizers and facilitators, taking people on hikes through Vermont and later New Hampshire wilderness and invariably being kind, patient and endearing to everyone at the reunion, ranging from little babies to aunts in their seventies.

Being a rude person, I said to my sister, “I am surprised at how well your daughter turned out. When she was a teenager, I thought you were a terrible mother and your daughter would be ruined for life.”

My sister’s answer was, “I was indeed a terrible mother. I have no explanation of how well she has turned out except that she had a lot of strength of character and she attended a Waldorf School.”

[I am a little skeptical of that explanation. My youngest brother and youngest sister attended a Waldorf School and they are both seriously messed up individuals.]

Unfortunately, as my daughter and her partner live here on the West Coast, and J and her husband S live in Vermont, they have never had a chance to meet as adults, nor have their children had a chance to encounter each other. My daughter and her partner, of course, are parents to the inimitable Random Granddaughter, now attending kindergarten at the School for Very Bright Children.

J and S have two children. My sister, very close to my Aunt Rose, like her became a follower of the weird semi-cult of Anthropacifism, based on the teaching of the German nut philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The Anthropacifists are best known in the United States for the Waldorf Schools and for biodynamic farming. My niece’s two children go to a Waldorf school. Although I consider them to be nutty overall, the Waldorf schools have some good points going for them, and bio-dynamic farmers have some success with their method of agriculture, which includes some peculiarities such as planting by phases of the moon.