As a child I thought of my mother as a redwood oak. Six foot tall in stocking-feet, she loomed over everyone else, even my father, who ogled her like the cat who ate the canary even when she was covered in sweat from doing Jane Fonda. Especially, come to think of it, when she was serving him matzo brei. With her blue-gold eyes and curving mouth and cheekbones, I guess I knew she was beautiful. But mostly I read her frustration–stuck in the suburbs, stuck with two screaming brats, stuck in compromises that whisked her away from a city career as an art designer, barely making ends meet but having so much more fun.
My father would tell me, “You’ll never be as beautiful as your mother” while she’d look away demurely, and even when I was small I’d think, What a fucked-up thing to say. But today I was nosing around the recently refinished basement of my apartment building and stumbled upon a box containing old letters and photos from my teens. There gleamed my twentysomething mother in a repose I’d long forgotten–lowered lids, pursed lips, goddess dress and tresses flowing. Venus in your bloodline: That’s something all right.
I find it no coincidence I excavated this image right before revising my book.