That's Jean, my mom—rarely without a child in her arms, as befits a mother of seven. She died when I was in my early 30s. Baby in the middle photo… me, scowling, as usual. (Or howling, and her response would be to fix yet another bottle of evaporated milk sweetened with corn syrup.) I remember being sent to the kitchen to mix up batches of the same… elixer? poison? for my younger siblings. I probably would have been 8 or 9, handmaiden to my mom. One of my favorite surprises for her was a late-night kitchen floor scrub. She'd come down in the morning and smile her thanks.
We all teased her when her sister sent her copies of the small town newspaper from her home town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. "Oh, Mom, look—Mrs. Tisdale hosted ladies' lunch!" She'd sit there on her little kitchen stool with her instant coffee—so strong it was verging on sludge, cigarette in hand. Silent, listening, almost-smiling.