It wasn’t so much that she was agoraphobic as it was that mom had serious issues with the daytime sky.
“It’s so fucking big!” she’d exclaim at what seemed like random intervals, in intonations that at first sounded like awe and enjoyment and over time devolved into the type of resentment that can usually only be found among the thirty-year veteran alcoholics down on Diversey and Central Park. “What are you supposed to do with anything that big?”
Mom would begin these rants without apparent concern for where we were or who would overhear them. At beaches, parks, and even at Stacy’s volleyball matches, mom would drift slowly away from whatever conversation was being held at the time and return to it with surprised, angry ejaculations about “the sheer, insensitive hugeness of it”, totally oblivious to how open to innuendo she had left herself by not giving anyone around her a topic sentence to steer by. Indeed, enough ill-timed exclamations and snarky sideglances from the tactless boys around her were really what drove poor Stacy up the social-conscious wall about mom for the first time in either of our lives. Absolutely mortified, Stace was, upon learning for the first time about all the jokes the boys at the mall would make hinting at our dear old mother’s vaginal integrity. At school, she would fly into a rage at the mere mention of our mother, thwapping and shaking silly everyone within reach until some teacher or coach could tear her away, but for all the strength hidden in Stacy’s tiny body, she knew in her heart that she simply could not thwap them all. Thus, like everybody else she knew, Stacy began to resent her mother, refusing to be seen anywhere in public with her or eventually, even associated with the woman by name. She opted for the surname St. Andrews, which she considered to be both believable and harder-to-euphemize or rhyme with than our good old familial Graves.
So, to be fair, Stacy St. Andrews, nee Graves, my dear sister and our mother’s eldest daughter, was totally MIA for most of mom’s spiral into daytime uranophobia, did not bear witness to her towering defiance of rainbows or her claims that the thing were actually, terrifyingly, getting larger and could be proven to be so both by redshift (which, sort of right) as well as by our increasing inability to receive clear transmission of This American Life (which, bullshit). The truth of it is, uranophobia or no uranophobia, mom was theoretically perfectly fine with the outdoors as long as it was cloudy at the time or even totally dark. She had no problem going outside at night, gardening by special headlamp, which according to her was much better for the plants anyway. Rooting around in the paths on our hands and knees, she’d shout “ah-ha!” and beckon me closer to examine with her the dark brown spots on the petals of her sunflowers. Burns, she said, where drops of water from the still-wet trees overhead had fallen there and magnified the sun’s rays so that they singed and wounded her poor helpless flowers. Such was the day’s evil, she said, and sat mourning it, whispering soothing-sounding words to it until the coming dawn tinged the sky a steely gray and chased her, cursing and indignant, back inside to safety.