This is my mother, Sandra. She died 33 years ago. This is what she looked like.
When I see these pictures now I see a beautiful woman. But when I was a child I didn’t. It didn’t matter because she was the center of my life and the root of my existence. But I was vaguely embarrassed by her looks because she didn’t look anything like the white bread women – the mothers of my friends – I grew up around after we moved to Southern California when I was six years old.
We were hippies dropped down into an alien world on the fringes of the lapping suburban sprawl of 1970s Los Angeles.
She never wore make up. She didn’t shave her legs or her under arms or do any of the other things that signified femininity and undergirded beauty in the world of my early childhood.
Throughout her life she was uncomfortable with her nose. And she had a running dialog with herself about whether she should have it “fixed”, which actually would have been totally out of character for her and is probably why she never did. But in a savage irony, when she died, in addition to her fatal injuries, she broke her nose. So it had to be reset for her, fixed, in death.
Myself, I couldn’t bear to see her again. So I didn’t go to her funeral. Afterwards relatives told me she was generously made up in death, utterly unlike in life.