Does the memory of one’s mother ever truly dim: she, whose body we have shared, whose physical and psychological presence shapes the whole world as we know it in the beginning? It’s been said that each mother-child pair has it’s own DNA—even within the same family they can be similar, but nevertheless unique.

She was magnificent, in close-up and viewed from afar. My mother was a “great beauty,” so much so that when her picture appeared in a Life magazine story about college girls’ fashions, three movie studios offered her contracts based on that alone (well, it was the ’40s). She chose Twentieth Century Fox, she said, because they called first.

They signed her for a standard seven-year contract and set about trying to make her Fox’s answer to Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake. Her first film , directed by Joe Mankiewicz of “All About Eve” fame, was given a lot of build-up and publicity: “meet that  (Nancy) Guild gal … she rhymes with wild,” said the ads, trying to solve the problem of the tricky pronunciation of her last name. Though she always was the leading lady, and got to star with some impressive actors, including Orson Welles, after her contract was up she read the writing on the wall and moved to New York with my father.

The star magic never faded, and it was always something to be in her entourage. People always recognized that she was “someone” even if they had no idea who that someone was. She carried herself with an air of glamorous entitlement, and yet she was charming and warm. She knew the names of the salesladies at Saks even though we only shopped for school clothes once or twice a year. She also remembered to ask after their families and seemed to remember who had a daughter in college or a son in the Army, and before you knew it we were shown to a dressing room, and she had a chair, a cup of coffee, and an astray, though even in the 60’s there was no smoking in department stores. Meanwhile, the saleslady, would be bringing in and out an endless array of outfits for my sister and me. All this took hours, but we would emerge from the store into what was now dark night with no packages, because, of course, everything had to be altered to perfection, to be sent home later.

Home,  we children would often sit, after our dinner, at her feet and watch her put on her make-up in her bedroom-sized dressing room as she got ready to go out.  After what seemed like hours, she would air-kiss us (lispstick!), and we would watch as she descended the stairs swathed in exotic fabrics, leaving a perfumed trail behind her. Much later, when we had been asleep for many hours, she would always come up to our room and kiss me for real, and ask, “Who’s my love?” and I would reply sleepily “I am,” and roll over contently.

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