Cover Photo: Photograph by Takahiro Taguchi/Unsplash
Photograph by Takahiro Taguchi/Unsplash

Three Car Crashes and the Long Afterward

The story is no longer me and my vehicles but my mother and hers. We called it an accident, but it wasn’t.

I have been hitRelease me.

I was my mother’s first-born daughter, but not her favorite

but not her favorite

Beth is the daughter I wish I’d never had. Beth is too much trouble.

I love you

Still, in this long morning, this afternoon, now, of vertigo, the old wounds rise, astral. The old wounds turn a story twice, and so I stand from the bed and steady myself and head downstairs to the box where I have been keeping a handful of my mother’s letters, most of them written in my twenty-second year. I have had these notes for many years now, and I have never read them.

Dear Betsy,

I remember when I was 22—all day I said to anyone who would listen, “Today is the 22nd of May and I’m 22.” Wasn’t I clever? But I suppose that, in a way, is not all as dumb as it sounds. Perhaps that is one of life’s mysteries—to find a near perfect balance between life’s simplicities and life’s mysteries.

Now last night, when sleep was reluctant to rest on any pillow, I thought of beautiful things I could say to my beautiful 22-year-old—now, however, it just seems that I don’t want to be clever or wordy—I just want to tell you how much I love you—Dad and I—and how pretty your little brown head of curls is. Your smile is an instant frown remover and your talents abound. Mostly, we just love you.

Dear Betsy:

I think I’ve jumped around a lot, but images don’t always assemble themselves in a rational line. Feelings are brittle, porcelain-like. They crack, they chip, and sometimes break into smitherins. (Now there’s a word I’ve heard used many times and don’t think I’ve ever seen. It’s a word, isn’t it?) Sometimes a chip doesn’t matter. But sometimes the finest artisan can’t repair the damage and it must be discarded . . . The summer has been such a maze. Trying to rationalize you there, us here.

Dear Betsy:

You were once an etherial creature.

smitherins

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of two-dozen books, an adjunct teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, and a co-founder of Juncture Memoir Workshops. Her essays appear or will soon appear in Ninth Letter, North American Review, The New York Times, Life magazine, and elsewhere, and her new memoir in essays, WIFE|DAUGHER|SELF, is scheduled for release from Forest Avenue Press in spring 2021. She can be found at bethkephartbooks.com.