I don’t know very much about my mother’s earlier years. She doesn’t talk about it. As a result, her adolescence and early adulthood feels strangely blank to me.
She is not hiding anything in particular. There’s simply not much to tell. I sense that she merely arrived at the right places at the right time and, sensibly, took advantage of the opportunities that were presented to her.
She has told me the following stories about her youth:
1) She felt nervous during her entrance exam.
2) She lived in the United States and felt utterly depressed.
3) She lived in the United States and ate disgusting things like week-old Arby’s French dip and ice cream sandwiches (her own concoction consisting of two slices of bread hugging a thin layer of ice cream).
When I was younger, she confided in me that the best chapter of her life unfolded when she was hovering somewhere in her mid-to-late twenties – when she had a desk job and lived with a roommate and owned a lot of mismatched silverware.
Sometimes, when I am alone and quiet and feeling like her, I try to reconstruct her life using the small details that she has given away over the years. I picture her in my head: she is a pretty, slight slip of a girl. She is the same age as me and she is still considered a girl. She is self-contained and slightly aloof. She eats like a sparrow. She works in Santa Monica and is not dating. She spends a small part of her meager salary on art classes and clothes. She walks along the harbor, bare-limbed, in white platform shoes. She is utterly free.