Crash, by Daisy Florin
The summer I was twenty-six, my mother and I traveled together to the south of France. She was spending a week at the vacation home of friends on the French Riviera and had invited me to tag along. I thought perhaps I was a bit too old to still vacation with my mother, but since I couldn’t afford to take a European trip on my own, I jumped at the invitation.
Being asked to spend a week at someone’s home in France was the kind of thing that happened to my mother and never happened to me. . I had spent most of my life suspecting she was cooler than me—she was Swedish, spoke seven languages and was a successful fashion executive—but now the distinction seemed more stark than ever. While I struggled with low-paying jobs, roommate dramas and small apartments, she was thriving. At fifty-five, her marriage to my father over and my brother and me living on our own, she threw herself into her work and friends and traveled whenever she had the opportunity: white-water rafting in the Grand Canyon, biking through Eastern Europe, skiing in Utah. Her eclectic group of friends invited her everywhere, and I could understand why; she was affable, energetic and up for anything.
We were staying at the country home of a wealthy English couple, to whom my mother had come by way of her friend Kathy. Kathy was the beauty editor at a prominent British fashion magazine and, between the two of them, I spent the week surrounded by beautiful things: lipsticks, sarongs, Grecian sandals. And the house provided the perfect backdrop. Nestled into a secluded corner of the French countryside and overlooking lilac-covered hills, it was nicer than any hotel I’d ever stayed in. In the mornings, we sipped cappuccinos and practiced yoga on the bluestone patio. Afterwards, we sprawled out on white lounge chairs next to the infinity saltwater pool. While Kathy and my mom flipped through magazines, I practiced my rusty French on the housekeeper’s young son.
One day, the three of us drove down to Cannes in our rented convertible. A city girl, I had never driven in a convertible before and, from the windblown backseat, I watched the European vacationers walking on the white sand beaches in string bikinis. My mother sat in the front seat, her curly red hair pulled back in a loose knot, large tortoiseshell sunglasses reflecting the southern sun. Looking down at my cut off shorts and Birkenstocks, I wondered why, wherever we went, my mother always looked like she belonged there.
It was raining the morning we packed up the convertible and headed down the winding mountain road to the airport. The roads were slick and, as we came around a curve, a car heading in the opposite direction skidded into our lane. We didn’t have time to get out of the way and hit it head on. The driver’s side airbag deployed immediately, hitting my mother square in the face. My side of the car had no airbag and so my face smashed right into the dashboard. Blood pooled into my lap, streaming out of my nose.
About the Author
Daisy Alpert Florin grew up in New York City and attended Dartmouth College. Her essays have appeared in Brain, Child, Full Grown People, Minerva Rising and Mamalode. At the time of the publication of "Crash," she was a staff editor at Brain, Child and lived with her husband and three children in Connecticut.