I wonder, now, of all the stories she might have told had I worked harder to defy her, to learn her native language. I wonder how much more I have lost of my mother because I could not truly speak to her.
“The woman in the picture is not just different from what I remember of her, or want to remember: she is a ghost, like the ghosts I would see on strips of negatives as a girl. In daylight I would hold them up to my eye, trying to guess who they were, and when I grew bored of this, I would fashion these haunted ribbons into bracelets round my wrist.”
A premise: within every human being there is the vatic voice. Vates was the Greek word for the inspired bard, speaking the words of a god. To most people, this voice speaks only in a dream, and only in unremembered dream.
A body is neutral, objective, a fact—no more meant to be interpreted than a rock or a car. Different bodies shouldn’t mean different things, and yet. Other people have different interpretations of my husband’s body: its intent, threat, capabilities, worth.
To forget Etta Moten is to miss the chance to celebrate a life as eventful as the twentieth century she traversed, an American biography that boasted not only a second act but a third and a triumphant fourth.