Twenty-Six

by: Christine Stoddard1

“I might as well have been her twin because she never saw me as her daughter. Instead, I was a perpetual nuisance”…

surreal-photography-kirsty-mitchell-30

I am the age my mother was when she killed herself – to the month, the week, and the day.

Everyone says I could’ve been her twin because I look just like her. I say I might as well have been her twin because she never saw me as her daughter. Instead, I was a perpetual nuisance.

I can still hear her Lauren Bacall voice snapping at me as I toddled about:

“Put your stupid bear away. You’re too old for it.”

“That’s not a boo-boo. It’s a scratch. Use real words, and stop crying.”

“Go to your room and don’t come out until you’re ready to fix yourself dinner.”

My mother never wanted to be a mother – mine or anyone else’s. She feared the stretch marks, the changed breasts, the torn vagina. Her dread of lost freedom came second.

“I haven’t gotten my nails done since before you were born,” she used to say. “You turned me into a regular frump.”

Nobody knew she was a frump but her.

My mother was the kind of beautiful people noticed: tall but not too tall, slender yet curvy, long-haired, clear-faced and bright-eyed. She had dropped out of high school to become a trade show model, working until she met my father on the hood of a Jaguar. Oiled from head to toe, she wore a leopard-print bikini. My balding father wore a gray suit and carried a briefcase. He bought the car right then and there and asked my mother to go for a ride with him. I arrived three months into their whirlwind marriage.

Sometimes, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I’d watch my mother wallow before her vanity as I hid in the closet. She’d dip her fingers into various jars, smear lotions on her face, and study her reflection before wiping her face clean. Then, sulking, she would slip into her cold bed. My father was never home most nights, and I didn’t dare move until I was sure she had fallen asleep. Cuddling was forbidden.

When I study my reflection now, I see my mother. Perhaps I am a few pounds heavier. Perhaps I am more prone to smiling. But it wasn’t just sheer luck that, throughout my teens, when I showed people pictures of her, they believed I modeled on the weekend.

The main difference is that I will not run the hot water. I will not smash the mirror and take a shard into the tub. I will not sing “Down the road, the long, long road,” as my baby plays House in the den. I will not paint the bathroom tile red as I leak to death.

I will put on my clothes and go to the den and pick up the baby and hold her tight. Put her down and show her how to tie an apron and cut a cake and eat a slice.

This is our house – the same house where my mother lived at my age. But by tomorrow, I will be older than she ever was.

 

Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist originally from Virginia. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Ravishly, The Feminist Wire, Latin Trends, The Huffington Post, and beyond. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding Quail Bell Magazine. Christine currently lives in Brooklyn, where she is the associate editor for For Her and the creator of “Forget Fairytales” comics. Learn more at WordsmithChristine.com.

  1. Header art by the phenomenally talented Kirsty Mitchell. []

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