I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.

She isn’t far, you see. I could just reach her, I’m sure, if I knew where to look.

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
My car—full of the flotsam and jetsam of my life—is the last stronghold of the days of darkness.

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
She’s back there somewhere. I am afraid to look.

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
She was a small woman, you know, who grew smaller as she aged.
She left this life in ounces.

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
We spent her last day together, the two of us.
I sat beside her while she was interviewing angels.

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
She was my mother, my best friend—And then she was dust.

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
It was like this: I was moving—again. Feeling displaced. Rootless.
So rootless that this time I was even carrying with me the roots of my own flesh.

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
She was riding in the back seat in a small box, and the box got lost, you know. There was so much to sort through back there—so much I didn’t want to see!

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
It was really her car, is the thing. I bought it from her.
I gave her four quarters.
You know that little table that slides across the hospital bed?
I laid them there, one by one. Just something to make it legal.
Four quarters for a whole car! Four quarters make a whole.
Four quarters for a whole car, for a whole life . . .
Four quarters that said I would leave with the car, and the wallet, and the keys, and the glasses, and the slippers, and everything that was of “substance” in her life. I’d even leave with the four quarters.
Those four quarters were the first time we looked into each other’s eyes and said ‘Well, this is it, I guess.’

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
She kept saying “I’m not afraid to die, you know—I’m just not packed yet.”
The doctors grinned. She charmed them all, even with her last breaths.
I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
I’d promised her to clean it up and return it after my last move,
just weeks before she, uh, before she . . .
But I’d been too busy, watching her die. She never got it back. I never cleaned it up. And then she got lost in it.
Lost in the jumble of fear and pain that rode around in the back seat in the guise of stacks and boxes and bags and papers and books and unidentifiable crap that I could not budge.
And cannot budge today, almost three years later.
It’s two moves later, and there is still unidentifiable crap
in the back of my car.

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
I wonder if she would see the humor in that?
She had such a sense of humor. Until her last breath. I think she would have laughed. And then been pissed.
And then laughed some more.

I lost my mother in the back seat of my car.
I finally found her, you know. Grateful that I was saved from the fate of being some kind of monstrous daughter who’d lose her mother in the rubble of her own despair.

And now I’ve lost my mother somewhere in my house.
She isn’t far, I’m sure. I could just reach her . . . if I knew where to look.

julie parker

First published in WNC WOMAN magazine, May 2003

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