We recently published Eileen Tomarchio’s lovely “Origin of a Face.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

1) I have read that it is a very human trait to give faces to things that are technically faceless — but of course they don’t seem faceless to me! The daughter seems to find comfort in the faces of things that aren’t human. Do you think her mother ever imagined she would reconnect with her daughter in this way?

Pareidolia is such a fascinating quirk, reading humanness in random objects. I wanted to convey that there’d been an emotional disconnect between the little girl and her mother, so the mother coming back as a button—an object the little girl can read as “human”—is perhaps a compensation for what was lacking. 

I think the mother regards her reincarnation at first as an absurdity, then something apt and maybe redemptive. A button’s flat expression can be read by the little girl in a world of ways. And maybe that means there’s room, from here on, for her relationship with her mother to still grow. 

2) I love that powerful moment when the daughter is playing in the bathtub and it is the mother who panics for fear of the screaming buttons going down the drain. There’s something so tender about the two of them toweling the little buttons dry before bed. I guess this is less of a question than a compliment, but could you tell me what this scene means to you?

There’s something both safe and intense in that mother-daughter pretend-play. The daughter gets to act out being the protective, rescuing, emotional mother—a wish fulfillment. The mother responds by entering her daughter’s world-building, I think as a way to connect in a way she can’t directly, and maybe find the mother in herself she wishes she could be.

Motherhood can be so thorny. The pitfalls of self-recrimination, misinterpretation, distractibility, detachment, exhaustion, guilt. Thank goodness for tubby time, for the chance to cleanse and refresh.