Guilt--brings a lot to a characters development...it works for and against a character laying waste and blame and heartache, a wonderful device…
It had been a year since Hannah's mother passed, didn't really matter how, she was gone, irrefutable, irrevocably and irreversible.
Mom…so many things I didn’t tell you…but then, how much did you tell Gramma? Did you tell her your first kiss made you want to throw up because the neighbor, Mr. Thomson said it was a ‘special day’ and he wanted to share it? He smelled like cheap liquor and that Paco Raban cologne knockoff that had a bitter edge to it—the kind that that company sold along with the other knockoffs that were more alcohol than decent work with blended scents and futures hoped for. He touched me…I didn’t tell you that either. I was 14, I wore that pale peach jersey, sleeveless. I guess from a distance it looked like I wasn’t wearing anything, to M. Thomson at least. I had tied that long dark cloth around my neck, listened to it flap behind me like a cape as I sped along on my bicycle, too old for the little kid’s game, too young for the others. Just right for him.
I was Viceroy, like the butterfly, only—just close to what a Monarch butterfly looks like, but one or the other, I’ve never remembered which, has a bad taste, so the birds leave it alone. I always loved that idea, how the look, not exact, but close enough, saved the one, for a mistaken identity.
You thought I was one thing, trying to make me into the image of the little girl you wanted, and—I couldn’t be that. Gods and little fishes, how much does it take for me to NOT say, “I’m sorry.” Why should I apologize for being me? Why couldn’t you accept me for me? You were you…maybe not the you, you wanted, but I could never be that either, didn’t you recognize that? A year passed, more and more, when I lived away from home, I tried to be what you wanted, sometimes I didn’t, but was that rebellion or being true to myself?
I didn’t want your life, I wanted mine. Why did that feel like a betrayal, a crime against the woman who bore me, who treated my sicknesses, who taught me about being—the kind of woman she was…
I remember the first time I thought of you as not my mother, but an entity with a life, separate and beyond, and simultaneously, I felt closer to you than I ever have, and farther away than ever from the you I thought I knew.
We are layers, webs, fractions parceled out among those we meet.
I did not know you, and was content with my separateness. Now, I wonder, how much of you is still in me, like the lining of the old trunk, pictures from lining paper out of stock, out of fashion, and never reordered for lack of interest. Then I open it, the scent of cedar and old silverware, scales from moth wings, and the handkerchief Gramma edged with lace to make it fancy.
What embellishments did we use, unknowing, to cover, to extend and pass as something else?
I’m still learning, and for that, I do thank you.
So, an excerpt from the mind of a daughter...