If it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t have to take jobs like this. She would be half a planet away, floating in a turquoise sea, dancing by moonlight to flamenco guitar. I felt my guilt like a brand…. I had seen girls clamor for new clothes and complain about what their mothers made for dinner. I was always mortified. Didn’t they know they were tying their mothers to the ground? Weren’t chains ashamed of their prisoners?

Have I been conditioned to believe that if I am not solicitous, if I am not forthcoming, if I am not a never-ending cornicopia of entertaining delights, they will take their collections of milk-bottle tops and their mangy one-eared teddy bears and go away into the woods by themselves to play snipers? Probably. What my mother thinks was merely cute may have been lethal.

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