Miriam Feder home



I’ve learned a lot in darkness. I was the queen of the all-nighter in grad school; I gave lessons. It was so much easier to concentrate when it was dark and quiet.

My first all-nighter was in third grade multiplication tables. I had to perfect the 8′s at eight.

Sixteen, twenty-four—easy, it’s music time. But how would I ever remember a number like fifty-six. It meant nothing to me. Seventy-two was a strange number at first but it’s twenty-seven backwards—my birthday date. It became my landing pad as I anxiously chanted my way through the eights, over and over again. “Seventy-two, my old friend. I’m almost there.”

Adults have different problems with multiplication. For example, divorce times backstabbing, times sick child, times crazy boss, times stopped-up toilet equals chest-pounding tremors. Nobody prepares you for this kind of multiplication. When you lose the numbers you lose all kinds of certainty. For one thing, there’s no way to check your work. And no one wants to see your miserable little on-the-fly-process, except the doubt-mongers and second guessers. And who needs them? They’ll have you re-assembling incomplete records forever.

But if you think adult multiplication is hard, wait till you get to Division. Everyone, even the teacher, agrees that division is a terrible word.