In our mother’s house there was the fragrance

of blueberry pie, coffee cake, chocolate chip cookies.

There were waffles and ice cream for Sunday supper

Ice cream is protein, she would say. For breakfast,

when asked, sardine sandwiches, tomato soup.

In our mother’s house there was yarn to hold

nestled in our elbows, arms stretched wide

swaying side to side as she wound it over fingers

into balls for knitting Irish fisherman sweaters,

puppet mittens, cabled newborn baby sets.

Simplicity decorated our mother’s house:

a needlepoint of Boston’s Beacon Hill,

her mother’s pewter candlesticks,

hand blown glass vases, primarily blue

a favorite color reflecting her eyes.

Watercolor beach scenes lined the walls:

sailboats moored by sunlit bays,

inlets carved through marsh and grass,

safe harbors for my little sister and me to

play dolls, dream, and grow beyond.

In our mother’s kitchen were turquoise

naugahyde chairs that swiveled round

a white pedestal table where we talked

of the grandparents who escaped Russia

and Romania so we could live in peace.

There we debated—vacation to Miami or

new refrigerator. We drove 1500 miles south.

She said That’s what the girls will remember.

We saw poverty, segregation in pitiful towns;

cocktail dresses and mink on Collins Ave.

In our mother’s house there were tiny notes

not harsh words: Please clean off your chair,

the one in our teenage room where we’d drape

a week’s worth of rumpled clothing.

Her neatness second nature, ours nil.

There were admonitions Not to start anything

you can’t finish with boys we would date.

And wise counsel, No one looks at you

the way you look at yourself. There was

little criticism save You should study more.

In our mother’s house, our dad told the jokes,

our mother was the yeller, admitting

I’m not mad at you, just out of patience.

In the bitter days of March she would chirp

Every day is a day closer to Spring.

In our mother’s house, prayer plants folded their

leaves at dusk, philodendron dangled hearts.

We dug a garden in rocky soil, grew stunted corn,

carrots our mother cooked in butter and sugar

to sweeten the taste, as she did for everything.

Leave a Reply