My cousin posted a picture of my mom at the holidays. In the picture, Mom stares out the window, past the porch of our childhood home, into the woods.
Mom’s hair is grey and sun blonde now. Without resting, she rests her chin on her hand. Her eyes squint as if she’s staring into a floodlight, or as if she is in pain.
Maybe we, my brother, my sister and I, are the sources of her pain. Maybe we stare her down from memory. Or maybe it’s from some deeper source: from the rise of her expectations, from their friction with each sight and sound – each the evidence of the world’s violation.
Her face is thin and tired beneath the tan. Her expression is without demand. When she yelled or tried to implement rules, she would fail by breaking them herself. And she only tried when she was angry, when the world disagreed and she felt it.
And she was forgetful. We would come home to locked doors and snow, more than once climbing in through the bathroom window. We were blamed for the snow on the bathroom floor and for the heat bill.
Perfume in the stale, old-food smell of the minivan and the warmth from the dashboard fans in winter. She drove me to ballet or hiphop on Saturday mornings. I see her wide eyes in the rearview mirror, her lips smacking, applying an umber shade of lipstick. Her image is infused and I will not forget it.