It’s not that Anne and her mother had a bad relationship. Mother cooked warm and hearty meals for Anne. Mother braided Anne’s hair just right for school photos. Mother took Anne to the zoo in the third grade and to the gyno in the tenth, after she found out Anne was promiscuous.
But there was something Mother would never talk about, and it drove Anne wild with curiosity.
June 5th, 1956
Diary, today I overheard Mother talking to that beastly Constance Huffington from down the street. Mrs. Huffington asked Mother when she is going to settle down again with a nice man. Mother got all choked up and said she’s not ready, not since the accident.
What accident, I wonder. Did she poop in her pants?
It wasn’t that Anne and her mother didn’t talk. Mother told Anne about the sales she read about in the weekly circular. Anne told Mother about gawky Penny Pisshawker and how she got chewing gum all caught up in her head gear. Mother told Anne to clean her room.
But Mother would always change the subject when Anne asked about the accident.
April 18th, 1960
Diary, Mother and I were at the department store yesterday and I was looking at the swimming suits. Mother started crying when I asked if she was going to buy one too. She said she hasn’t worn one since the accident! The accident! What accident??
But oh Diary, the swimsuit I bought is pink and blue and has the most darling bow which lies plumb against my tailbone and camouflages my sway-back.
It wasn’t that Anne’s childhood was defined by not having a father around. Mother would call up her brother for situations that required a man’s finesse. Like teaching Anne how to throw a baseball. Like putting together the dollhouse Anne got for her birthday. Like blacking the eyes of the boy who groped Anne on the bus.
But Mother would never talk about Anne’s father, and Anne didn’t remember ever knowing him.
January 31st, 1995
Diary, Freddie proposed to me tonight! Oh, it was beautiful. We were watching Romeo+Juliet and I nearly choked on the ring because that slick son of a bitch had hidden it in a jar of macadamia nuts! I said to him, “Baby, why would you do that? You know I chug these fuckers like it’s a frosted mug of lactation and I’m a nursing baby.” Then we had sex and spilled a box of wine all over Mother’s white shag. After she was done screaming at me about that, I waited for her to take a Valium before asking about Father. We had a huge argument and she was crying and pulling at her hair. I said that it’s only natural for a father to walk a daughter down the aisle and she was sputtering all sorts of nonsense.
But I swear I heard her say she hasn’t heard from him since the accident. WHAT FUCKING ACCIDENT.
It wasn’t that Anne was glad to see her Mother marinating in her own piss at the nursing home. Anne didn’t like that her Mother’s once-tanned skin had turned into a translucent sheath, scaly tracing paper revealing the blue and purple tubes snaking through her body. Anne didn’t like that her Mother had to push a button for a nurse to come help her take a dump. Anne didn’t like the fact that when it came down to it, she was the one that would have to pull Mother’s plug.
But maybe, if she was to be honest for a second, learning the truth about the accident would make that easier.
“Mother, please,” Anne pleaded, her fingers intertwined with her Mother’s near-skinless phalanges. “Tell me about the accident. I’m a grown woman now and you can trust me.”
Mother expelled a wad of mashed potatoes from her throat with one forceful cough. The unswallowed morsels splatted against the lampshade and hung there like maggots on shit. “You,” she wheezed, hacking up a tawny membrane of gooey phlegm for dessert. “You were the accident.”