My mother never looked or acted the way real mothers were supposed to. She wasn’t soft or huggable, she didn’t sew clothes or bake cookies, and she never volunteered to be class mother. Also, unlike my friends’ mothers, she never looked completely done in by chores and child rearing. On the contrary, she remained untouchably glamorous.

My mother had great legs and she knew it. She wore short skirts with a pair of green lizard-skin high heels. Every afternoon at three o’clock, the house in perfect order, she took a “beauty break” for a half-hour or so. (God help me if I did anything noisier during her nap than turn the pages of a book.) Then she made herself a cup of tea and renewed her manicure. She had pretty hands and flawless nails that she enameled every day. It was a great honor to sometimes get to choose the shade.