her.rnAs a child she had ahvavs hated littlerngirls who told cvervhodv they wanted torngrow up to be mothers.rnShe goes to visit her own mother, whornmav get siek at anv moment and needrncare for the rest of her life. She comesrninto the tinv apartment in a combinedrnguilt and lo’e that render her speechless.rn()n these ‘isits she slips helplessly intornchildhood, her mind seething withrnunspoken complexities while her lipsrn.shape the expected speeches.rnWhat was it like for vou?rn”How arc ou feeling?”rnDid ()u and he enjo’ it and how didrn()u keep that a secret?rn”That’s too bad. Your African violetsrnlook wonderful.”rnW’hv won’t ou ever gi’e me a straightrnanswer? ‘rn”Do ou realh want Kitty up therernwith the plants? I wish vou’d get someonernin to help vou clean.”rnI wish I didn’t hae to worrw I wentrnfrom child who depended to womanrnstruggling for freedom to this withoutrnecr once passing through a safe zone inrnwhich neither of us reallv needed thernother.rn”That dress is beautiful, Mother, butrnou don’t look warm enough.”rn1 know ou think I dress to embarrassrnou.rnThe aging woman whose graciousrnmanner comes out of a forgotten timernsas, “As long as it looks nice, I can putrnup with being ehilh.”rnJust before the mother looks away herrndaughter sees a flash of the captive gid.rnThe old ladv’s flesh has burned away,rnleaing the skin quite close to her skull.rnStepping off the curb, she is uncertain.rnCaged behind her mother’s face is herrnown future.rnAs the- go out the door the old motherrntries to brush a strand of hair off herrngrow n daughter’s forehead; the old ladyrnwould like to replace her daughter’srnwardrobe with clothes more like her own.rnStop that. Please don’t do that.rnShe thinks, Mother, I’m sorrv vourrnold age is lonclv, but something elsernsnags at the back of her mind. Why wasrnm childhood lonclv? She will lavish herrnown children with company: siblings,rnpeople to sleep over. She will answer allrntheir cjuestions in full. She will never insistrnon anything that isn’t important.rnAll her friends hae mothers. In onernwa- or another all those mothers haverndricn their grown daughters crazy.rn”She pretended to know nre,” says Diana,rnwho had flown all the way to Yorkshirernto be with her. “Then on thernfourth day wc were in the sitting roomrnwhen she showed me a picture. I askedrnwho it was and she said this was herrndaughter Diana, who was married andrnliving in America. She had erased me.”rnAnother says: “When I was little shernpraised everything I did, even if it wasn’trnany good. She praises everything sornmuch that vou know she means. Is thatrnall?”rn”She says. You can’t do that, whateverrnit is, when what she means is that sherncouldn’t do it. When 1 told her in spiternof the family and the job I’d made thernLaw Re’iew she said, ‘You’re doing toornmuch,’ when what she meant was: It’srn’our funeral.”rn”The world has gone past her, and atrnsome level she is jealous.”rnEvery one of the women says, “Shernthinks my house is never clean enough.”rn”She thinks families always love eachrnother and dinners are delicious and everythingrnis always fine, and if it isn’t,rnthen it’s my failure.”rnWe are never going to he like that.rnAs their children grow older they try tornremain open, friendly, honest, tolerant,rnbut behind their eyes the question risesrnand will not be put down. Will wc bernlike that after all?rnBeware for she is lurking, as the fullrnmoon approaches she will beg her captorsrnto lock the cell tightly and chain herrnto the bars, but when the moon completesrnitself she will break through steelrnto get to vou and when she does she willrnspring on your best moments and savagernthem, the bloody saliva spraying for yourrnown good for she never docs anythingrnshe does except out of love.rnAnd .she does love you.rnSays her own mother, yhom she hasrnjust asked what she’s going to do whenrnshe gets out of the hospital:rn”We’ll see.”rnIt is the same answer her mother gavernwhen she was a child and asking, Are werngoing to the movies? Can I have somerncandy? Is my life going to come out allrnright? It infuriates her because it meansrnnothing.rn(She will always give her own childrenrnstraight answers. She will tell them morernthan they want to know about thingsrnthey ma’ not have asked.)rnShe is trembling with rage. The agingrnwoman looks at her with fliat same heedlessrnsmile, magnifieenfly negligent. Howrnwill she manage alone with a mendingrnhip?rnWe’ll see. That smile!rnShe cannot know yhether this is follyrnor bravery. In her secret self she can feelrnthe yoke descending.rnI will never he like that.rnCan she keep her hand from twitchingrnwhen she sees her daughter’s hair out ofrncontrol? Can she be still when the oldestrnflies to Europe and his brother wants tornleave school/move away/hitchhike tornFlorida and sleep on beaches? Will shernbe able to pretend these decisions arerntheirs to nrake or will she begin to replicaternthose maternal patterns of duplicity?rnKissing the cheek to detect fever,rngiving the gift designed to improve thernrecipient, making remarks that pretendrnto be idle but stampede her young inrnthe direction she has chosen. She neverrnwants to do that.rnShe wants to be herself, is all.rnIs that such a big thing to want?rnHer problem is that she wishes tornbelieve she has more than one function.rnLash me to the . . .rnArc you sure you know what you’rerndoing?rnArc you all right?rnI was just asking.rnBeware the yeremother, for evenrnwhen you have hung the room withrnwolfsbane and sealed the door and boltedrnit with a crucifix, even as you light therncandles she is abroad and there is nornpower to prevent her; cross yourself andrnstay alert for she will spring upon you andrnher bite has the power to transform evenrnthe strongest. Barricade yourself andrnnever take anything for granted evenrnyhen you think you’re safe, for even inrnthat last nroment, when you think yournhave killed her U’ith the silver bullet orrnstopped her once and for all with thernstake at the crossroads her power lives;rnwhen everything else is finished therernwill be the guilt.rnKit Reed is the author, most recently, ofrna collection of short stories ca//ecf Thiefrnof Lives (University of Missouri Press).rnJUNE 1994/47rnrnrn