I told a version of this story at my mother’s memorial service in 2000. At the time, her death felt very much like a car crash: quick, unexpected and violent. My dear friend Peggy Tagliarino came up to me afterwards and urged me to write the story. And so I did.
Here’s a short excerpt:
“The summer I was 26, my mother and I traveled together to the south of France. She was spending a week at the vacation home of friends on the French Riviera and had invited me to tag along. I thought perhaps I was a bit too old to still vacation with my mother, but since I couldn’t afford to take a European trip on my own, I jumped at the invitation.
Being asked to spend a week at someone’s home in France was the kind of thing that happened to my mother and never h
appened to me. I had spent most of my life suspecting she was cooler than me—she was Swedish, spoke seven languages and was a successful fashion executive—but now the distinction seemed starker than ever. While I struggled with low-paying jobs, roommate dramas and small apartments, she was thriving. At 55, her marriage to my father over and my brother and I living on our own, she threw herself into her work and friends and traveled whenever she had the opportunity: white-water rafting in the Grand Canyon, biking through Eastern Europe, skiing in Utah. Her eclectic group of friends invited her everywhere, and I could understand why; she was affable, energetic and up for anything.”