My mother was the most graceful woman I’d ever met, the way she glided into the room with her skirts gathered in her marble hands. Her voice was melodious, like a soulful melody whispered from Pan’s lips. When she deigned to grace us with her presence, Lottie, our French nurse maid would always hurry us along, tutting over our childish ways, tugging on our unruly cherubic curls. Lottie would parade us in front of her for inspection and Mother would look down through her spectacles and nod.
“Marvelous job, you’ve done with this one’s hair,” she said, pointing at my younger sister Janine. “Takes after her father, that one.”
Lottie’s chest swelled, and patted Janine’s shoulder.
She nodded at me. “Good. Good. I see you’ve shined your shoes.” She handed me some candy.
I was ecstatic.
Just as soon as she came she turned with a whirl of her skirts and began to glide out of the room. Janine broke free of Lottie’s hold and ran after her, grabbing hold of her skirt in her chubby little fingers.
“Mommy! Mommy wait!”
Our mother stared down at Janine as if she were a parasite, and gently removed her hand from her clothing.
She turned a hard glare at Lottie, “See that she is punished properly.”
“Young ladies,” Mother continued, shaking her pointer finger at Janine, “Do NOT whine. Now, go with Miss Lottie.”
Mother washed her hands then wiped them off on a handkerchief Lottie produced from her many pockets.
And then she disappeared for another few weeks.