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maddie lowe

Life wrapped each of us differently. My mom’s skin looks like fall mahogany 

wood dried after soaking in baths of olive oil. My sister’s skin reminds me of a summer 

roasted peach. My dad’s skin is like a quilt of sun-bleached, well-worn autumn leaves. 

And mine strikes me as a gaggle of ominous constellations sprawled across a golden sky. 

Skin cancer runs as deep in my family as the lust for adventure. 


My dad would pay any amount of money to get more melanin in his skin. He 

reminds me of a plant. On sunny days, he sits reading like a grateful stray cat: He 

unfolds, blooms and soaks in the sun’s drenching glory. My dad passed on his thirst for 

adventure, his sense of wonder, and his skin to me. My sister tells me that I am “white person 

tan” -- that my skin looks too gold, like a spray tan. I feel the prettiest in the spring, summer and 

early fall when the gold makes me feel like a wild goddess. On the days when the sun 

overflows, my friends and I catapult off cliffs into thrillingly cold hidden lakes, surf until the sun’s yolk drips below the horizon, run through backtrails populated by wildflowers and ferns until my legs are numb, lazily bike through town for ice cream in the late afternoon, gossip and giggle by the pool wrinkled with streams of light, and awe at sunsets from grassy peaks. These days paint my skin their shades of happy. 


My mom is a deeply thoughtful woman. She reminds me of peonies, snow 

leopards, and libraries. To me, she doesn’t have a scent because she smells like 

everything and anything. In every memory she is there. She thinks of everything before 

the thought has even been conceived in your mind, she can find any possession in the 

house, she can sense any roll of the eye no matter how quickly you do it or if she is 

turned away at the time. She gives the best hugs, and she can never get burned by the 

sun. Her skin slurps up its radiance, stores it and glows like humble embers. But embers 

burn out into ash. My mom turns grey from being in the sun too much. I always thought 

you could never get too much sun. It’s proven to make you happy.


 She lived in Portland to be with my dad for a year. It rained harder there than 

          the days of Noah’s Ark. She loved the sun but she loved my dad; so, she stayed. She  

stayed and her skin wasn’t grey. But my dad loved her and thought her grey skin was

      prettier than any paycheck from a job, so they moved here. They found Marin when they

    were at a friend’s wedding. They fell in love with the tree-lined streets, sleeping mountains, 

       small-town buzz, the smell of jasmine and the hopeful toddlers with rosy plump cheeks that       

    effortlessly plodded down the streets. They heard that nearby there was a school named

             Branson that was as pretty as they come. As they walked through the clusters of

   mansion-esque classrooms, they said to themselves, what a dream it would be to have a kid and

     them to go to this movie-set school. They both dismissed it as just that -- a dream. They are

     hard workers; it was hardwired in their DNA, almost as if it was tattooed on their skin. 


So, I am here now: 

sitting at a harkness table breathing through my mind at the movie-set school with my 

skin that is not too white but gold.

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