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Fat Babies and 'Bronx' Tales

Alexandria author offers touching life stories.

Before childhood obesity became a national health crisis, all Barbara Bradlyn Morris's mother wanted was for her daughter to be crowned as "The Fattest Baby in the Bronx."

It was the spring of 1933 when Morris captured that hefty title. As Morris writes in her new collection of essays and memoirs, titled "The Fattest Baby in the Bronx: Snack-sized Stories From a Writing Woman's Life," being an overweight baby was almost a status symbol for families whose financial means were limited.

"In the eyes of the other young matrons, to Mother's everlasting credit, she had managed to feed me well despite the Depression," Morris writes. "I'm surprised she didn't have me mounted — I was already stuffed."

A writer and author who lives in Alexandria near Bailey's Crossroads, Morris had penned essays and poems about her life for the last 35 years, getting them published everywhere from the Los Angeles Times to The Catholic Digest. Although Morris called her book a collection of "slice-of-life essays that will appeal to women," the universal themes and nostalgic tales cross different gender and generation boundaries.

The tales fluctuate between sweet and bittersweet — a tear-jerking tale about the relocation of a young girl, whom Morris and her husband Ward befriended when they were stationed on a Naval base in Hawaii, is just a few pages away from a hilarious story about Morris' frantic search for a missing bag of M&M's during a diet. There are also several "Seinfeld"-esque observational essays, such as one called "The Toilet Seat Dilemma."

"You know those little plastic gizmos that anchor the toilet seat to the porcelain base? Well, I can tell you from experience that when they break, seating becomes precarious," she writes.

MORRIS TURNED 75 years old last week, reaching an age that she can still remember feeling was an ancient number in her youth. "They say that 70 is the new 50," Morris said, and she means it — she continues to write and travel the world, with a trip to Italy set for this month.

Morris also wants to spread her wisdom as an author to others, having taught some workshops on how to pen a memoir. She said people always come up to her and tell her they have similar stories; the difficulty, Morris tells them, is actually remembering the details and writing them down.

Fortunately for Morris, and for her readers, three decades of essays have crystallized her life: holidays with the family, her relationship with her mother, her "crazy cats" and her adventures through life.

"The Fattest Baby in the Bronx" can be ordered at any bookstore, online or from Morris herself by e-mailing barwar@erols.com.