I saw a little spot of mold growing on her pale painted cheek. I took a soft cloth and dipped it in water, washed her face. But her cheek grew darker. I washed harder and harder. And soon I saw what I had done: rubbed half her face off completely! I cried, as if I had killed her. And after that, I could not look at that picture without feeling a terrible grief. So you see, I did not even have a painting anymore to call my mother.

Winnie speaks these words in chapter five, as she talks about the portrait of her mother, who had already been gone for several years. This quote is significant because if this book deals with the relationship between mother and daughter, then it is important to understand Winnie's relationship with her own mother, who had abandoned her. Winnie wants to clean the "image" of her mother, which may be related to the image she has in her mind of her. And yet, when she tries to do this desperately and by herself, she is unable to and, instead, she mars the image and the image begins to disappear, just as the memory of someone's face that has died can begin to fade in a person's mind. Thus, what happens in this recollection is what had happened to Winnie in real life: she had been forced to remember her mother on her own, without anyone helping her to remember the good things, only gossiping behind her back. As a result, her mother began to fade away from her, and this scene is symbolic of their relationship. Winnie's mother disappears physically from her life, and she is left with only a semblance of a mother, which soon also disappears as the years go on. And yet, she will forever remember that that piece of portrait of her mother—even though her mother was not in her life for very long—has had an impact on her life.