Introduction
T
he colors of the photograph have faded, but the
details are easy to discern. It is a close-up of my
mother’s face, taken sometime in the early years
of the 1970s. I imagine it is standard fare for the time: she
stands beneath, or perhaps in front of, a hanging fern,
gazing outside the frame with a serious expression that has
not a hint of sternness. I feel now, as I did when I was child,
that my mom looks ultra chic, a vision of glamour in the
1970s.1
Over the years, my understanding of the image has
shifted. After her death twenty years ago, I could barely look
at the photograph because it pained me to think of my own
loss. Years later now, I display it on my dresser and look at
it often. I think of how alike we look, although my features
are softer and fuller. I think about strange coincidences in
fashion—that the stark blond streaks I have in my other-
wise dark brown hair are similar to those she had in her
similarly dark brown hair. Sometimes, I try to reconstruct
the moment. They are musings akin to plotting the points
of a constellation, neither perfectly symmetrical nor linear:
I must have been around two-years-old. Predivorce: my par-
ents were still together, but were they getting along? We
were living near my paternal grandparents. She, therefore
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