The Faces: Static Voices

Words about my mother:

And I can almost see you, a memory vivid in my mind of a moment I was not present for. A summer afternoon in a world before Internet and cell phones, a world of bright yellows and greens. A world of 8-tracks and vinyl records, pants hugging your teenage hips tight against the realities of adulthood. You are young and vibrant and gorgeous, with your distinct laugh waving through time and space back at me, and this is the you I wish so desperately I could have known...before you were broken down and reassembled into a woman whose dreams were long past and whose idea of opportunities revolved around layaway and Goodwill. Before the cigarettes stained your fingers and years of washing dishes cracked your palms and knuckles. I know the beauty in you, and I can see it clearly. I can see who you were before the relentless waves of heartbreak beat you against the rocks again and again. I am fully aware that I, your distant daughter, the one who reaches out to you twice a year from 15 miles away, am now a co-conspirator of that heartbreak.

The beauty of rolled down windows and homemade bellbottoms is tangible to me and I can touch these times that I was not present for. I can touch your waist length cherry red hair, curling down around your face. The freckles on your pale skin shine gold when the sunlight filters through the trees and hits your cheeks just right. Before you met my father, before you met my sister’s father, Ventura Highway played on the radio. You were a barefooted hillbilly roaming the countryside, free as the air and far out. You were doomed and didn’t know it.

How can I face you when your wrinkles remind me of the 18-year old you used to be? Silence is easy but silence is hard, with guilt wracking me. Twisting my lips shut bruises in ways invisible to the naked eye, and I am isolated here. I can’t turn fully away from the woman who bore me, but you are not that woman. You are not that girl. I can catch a glimpse of her face in the corner of your eye when you speak to me, and I remember dimly that my birthright is somewhere still in you. The girl who glided giddily through rooms of hazy air and distorted guitar riffs, she is my mother and she is somewhere in you, diluted and waning.

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