There is a photograph of her, tiny against the mass of happy relatives: Whitsuntide 1957, my mother's and father's engagement, the whole family photographed standing in the park. Everybody smiles, my mother's face lit up like I have never seen it. E. is about five years old.
She stands there, one hand clutching the other one as if she had to keep them from moving, from gesturing uncontrollably; stands there, her little body so tense, like a jack knife about to flick shut; stands there, clutching her hands to her stomach as if it was aching; stands there, pressing her hands to her middle as if about to fold in onto herself. She stands there, as if all she could do was try to contain her pain, as if all she could do was try to hold her aching body in this transfixed form for the eternal moment it took to take the photograph. She stands there with an old face on a child's body.
While some of the women in the photograph wear sleeveless dresses she is dressed as if for winter. The coat with its little round collar is cut like a dress, only that the material is heavier. She wears a sweater or blouse underneath, its edges just visible under the coat sleeves, and a pair of dark trousers, which in the photograph have congealed into a heavy black pedestal for a legless girl. I read pain into the hands clutched over her stomach and into her little serious face that is the only one in the photograph that doesn't show at least the trace of a smile.
She looks straight into the camera.