Today is not my mother's birthday, but would have been the 63rd birthday of a woman who tried to mother me. When I met her and learned her birthday was April 4 and how old she was, my first thought was how she almost had the same birthday as the man who makes River Phoenix go Dutch Boy in My Own Private Idaho. Four four forty-four. This is not for her, but for my reel mother, based on a drawing I could have done:
PORTRAIT OF MY MOTHER
A sketch of my mother’s face gives good impression of the woman within. Drawn in brown crayon, the eyes are flat, sight obscured going both in and out. The lids in blue, heavy, require the uplift of beige feathered lashes to keep them aloft. The skin is pink, shaded grey along the contours, not for wrinkling—that onslaught of time against elasticity and slenderness of pores—but for the haze of smoke rising from the slim cigarette just below the picture’s lowest border. The mouth is a red cut across the paper never gotten quite right. Her ears are hidden in her hair, which sits on the oblong orb of her head in curled clumps that resemble cross-sections of tumbleweed more than anything living or dead. From the black tip of the collar one gets a sense of her dress, simple, elegant. In a word, devastating. The neck that emerges is graceful and shows little wear.