I don’t know why I remember that argument with my mother so precisely. We have fought many times, over the years, with increasing frequency. I keep waiting for things to ease off. To reach that moment I have heard about when she sees me as a woman, and I see her as one. When we are friends and equals, instead of what we are.
I was driving home from my sister’s house. I had been there for a week, nursing the wounds of my partner’s first affair. Inching towards forgiveness, scar by delicately-healed scar. My mother’s house was on the way, and she wanted to see me.
I remember most that during the argument my mother pretended not to be able to remember my relationship history, or the names of the fathers of my children. I remember the sharp, fast, spreading wave of shame that overcame me. I remember sitting beside my father, crying, almost unable to speak. Reduced, again, to the crumbling, incoherent posture of a child. Feeling sure she had said it just to shame me. Just to put me in my place. Because I’d hurt her.
This is what we do in my family. We know where the bodies are buried, and we dig them up. We are like cats, dragging our beautiful, murdered birds to the feet of those we revere. These are not gifts; we do not know — we have not learned — how to forgive each other. They are more like offerings, intended to provoke (not to placate) our living gods.