Yesterday, it felt like a minor achievement that I was able to write on the two-week anniversary of my mother's death without mentioning it. At the same time, a nagging awareness of betraying her memory, betraying some pact, even as I know how foolish that is. The mind needs to move. There's enough going on in this head, which wants to conjure her up again and again, in the unlikeliest moments. As I write this, I'm thinking of the two tiny bright-red moles beside her right eyebrow, which were were strangely interesting to me when I was young, in the way that the flaws of all adult bodies are strangely interesting to the young. Then there was the roughness of her left elbow, and the damaged second toe of her right foot. "Too-tight shoes," she used to say, though I'm not sure I ever believed that explanation.
I'm sure there's an allure of turning into her right now, which is how people grieve, I suppose, though the term grieving strikes me as inadequate to what goes on in the wake of any mother's death. My mother talked about her own mother incessantly during the last two years of her life. Even then I knew she wasn't just mourning her mother, who had died in 1960, but mourning her lost memory, mourning the mother she'd been, mourning herself as a child, and who knows what else.
A funny thing this morning: I was talking to a neighbor who had wandered into our garden. I was surprised by how at ease I was with her. None of my usual wariness. Or holding back that need to get on to the next thing. What was it? That accent, those inflections. Edie Beale. Edie, who knew a thing or two about mothers. Someone whom my mother might have become if she hadn't gotten the nerve to leave her own mother's house behind. So while we were talking inch worms and ticks, peonies and bullfrogs, I was also talking to my mother and to Edie herself, and my neighbor never knew a thing, which I think was just fine by all concerned.