This is a taste of a memoir in poetic prose – in three different decades of time
Lemon-lime sherbet had melted all over the counter;
it had to be the worst way of wasting money. He already
knew his Mama would be furious, especially something
easily avoided. He knew she would tell him to screw on his
head and pay attention.
Frankie was the oldest of three boys and common sense
seemed expected from him. His Mama entered the
kitchen, noticed the mess and began to raise her voice,
“No money – everything takes hard work, but
do you see it, do you? Nothing is free.” She
only had to move her head slightly, and her son
knew her disappointment. “You think about every
thing, but forget about the food on the table, what’s
in that head of yours?”
His Mama began shaking her head,
then glanced up to hand Frankie the cloth, “now rinse
Frankie grabbed the cloth, rinsed it in the sink, and
handed it back to his Mama.
“I’m really sorry – I forgot,” his head staring at
the floor, “it looks clean, doesn’t it?” he questioned.
He joined his Mama on the floor and scrubbed
any left over lemon juice, then helped his Mama
up from the floor.
His son told him about the mess, but his Papa
told him, “Don’t worry, everything will be forgiven.”
Frankie sat down on the couch, and glanced at his Papa, showing him
a slight smile, as they both sat listening to the radio. He could still hear
his Mama in the kitchen, and see her without being there tossing
the silverware into the drawer near the oven. For a moment, he
almost stood to go and help her. He knew her work was near an end
when the pantry door started to creak.
He stuck his pointer finger into the upholstery, pulling out a dark feather. He
quickly replaced it, pushing it through the hole and moved his body over the
damaged area – kicked his boots off which were in need of
repair and remained silent on the couch.
He looked toward the cedar chest placed against the opposite wall,
on top – a thick – red leather bible. His Mama read from that
bible every day and night. She would kneel at her bedside,
sit around the table, and she sat in the over stuffed chair in the
parlor – each and every word was read out loud, loud and clear.
Some days she spoke louder as if trying to convince God she was
a believer. Most of the time it was to heal the sick, feed the hungry,
cloth the poor, and keep the world out of war.
1970’s – 1980’s
I can see the lime green deck chair with rust on its’ legs, facing
Seneca Street. The chair first came from our house, but my Uncle
told me it was the most comfortable of all the out door furniture,
from. My Uncle never talked much after Grandmother died. Most
of his day, he spent in front of the television watching old movies.
When my Father visited he came along, and would join in on the
conversations. He lived upstairs with Grandmother, never did get
The sound of the dishwasher muffled the voices in the kitchen, I
seemed to bring up the more expensive model we use to own; my
husband covered it with insulation and you wouldn’t know it was
Grandmother’s kitchen had the old enamel sink, and rags would
dry on a round piece of wood. She used the same glasses until the
day she died, and that old pantry door never stopped creaking as
it closed on its own.
Rain started pouring down in buckets, hitting the sky lights over
the eating area – I no longer heard our dishwasher. Because of the
rain. Father gathered the coats draped over the chair, and Uncle
reached for the old black umbrella, crooked, but it belonged to his
mother. On the way out the front door the rain came to a stop, and
Father glanced up at the sky, pointing out the rainbow – it was my
Mother who passed away some time ago, who told the stories about
the pot at the end of the rainbow. Mother was never afraid of
storms, but Father would bring me into the basement and Grandmother
would be kneeling at the kitchen table praying to God.
Once I brought my daughter’s down the steps to our basement with
a packed lunch, to hide out during a storm. The storm was predicted
to hit – large hail and high winds – I prepared as if we were going to camp.
Once we were downstairs I ignored the fact the phone was ringing,
and I did have two neighbor children, all very well protected. But, I
would never answer the phone in a storm. Suddenly I heard what had
to be golf ball size hail hitting the windows, once that passed I heard
footsteps above our heads, someone was in the kitchen. Then I new it
was one of my daughter’s friends mother – so while I played camp she
was worried to death. She was worried, to say the least, and I believed
I was protecting them.
1980s – present
Mother always told me, “Keep that pencil out of your mouth.” it was
shear habit, and the pencil was lime green. I do remember the specs
of the eraser on my tongue, then, spitting it out onto the palm of my hand
hoping no one noticed which I rubbed my hands on my clothes. The
eraser tasted horrible but it never stopped me, like other habits I
began to acquire: Flicking paint from my bedroom door when it began
to bubble – I denied doing it – but beneath the pink was a delicate shade
It was summer, my bedroom window was opened and air barely squeaked
through the old wooded screen but I still heard my Grandmother in the
backyard holding that green garden hose, watering her tomatoes, beans;
both yellow and green, and her grape vines. She also had every shade of
flower growing near the yellow garage.
My daughter’s weren’t blessed by the teachings of a Grandmother who lived
upstairs, they never had bubbles of lead paint to peal and pick with their
fingers – or tomatoes growing in the yard. Instead they grew up with
microwave ovens, televisions built into cabinets in the kitchen, ice on
refrigerator doors, and self cleaning ovens. The time went quickly, soon
they would be carrying an iphone in a lime green case.