It wasn’t trauma like a car crash, all life-shaking terror and cataclysmic sensations. It was trauma the way poverty is trauma: it changed everything in our lives so absolutely we could not be the same people afterward. It was the worst thing that could happen, and it kept happening, and it kept getting worse. I remember so much of it so vividly: it is written behind my eyes, so that every December for the last three years I have nightmares and flashbacks about her deathbed. I want to remember her for who she was to me my whole life, but trauma speaks its own language: it tells memories that don’t make a neat story, and it tells them when you don’t want to listen.
I wrote about traumatic memory and how it’s changed my relationship to my late mother at The Toast. Nicole Cliffe also let me include two of my very very favorite pictures of my mom from the 1960s. Peggy Olsen, eat your heart out.