Posted Monday, December 1st, 2008
My jaw gets stiff in my sleep, dreaming about the twisting glow of a coil cigarette lighter, the kind my mother used in her car. Outdated items find me, even old words, like "howdy". It's Thanksgiving, and I wake up thinking about Nana in the kitchen basting an enormous bird. I loved the dark meat, and she'd always smile as if that meant something wonderful about me.
She left me three separately framed sketches of an organ-grinder monkey - hearing no evil (hands over his ears), speaking no evil (hand over his mouth), seeing no evil (hands covering his eyes).
I remember the quiet way she stood up from the table one year, casually, during the half-fed moments before dessert - my cousins making new jokes about Nixon's nose, wiping their chins. How the back yard was completely dark that night but not yet the front. Her light blue dress harmless as a wild rabbit between the hedge to the neighbor's. My grandfather's voice like a balloon rose over the table, the way he would clap his hands, saying, "you kids should get your own TV show and make some money."
Sometimes I can't help myself around the holidays, call just to hear my ex-husband's voice. Usually I'm a bake sale volunteer for the Unitarian Universalist Church, or the Birch Tree Home. He'll laugh. "Bake me a rhubarb pie and cover it with vanilla," he said one time. "You know what I like." If his girlfriend answers with her mouse brown voice, I hang up.
Beside the ocean's hiss I hear the neighbors vacuum, the only festive sign on the block. Their kids are off at college, one died in a car. Here where the air is white and thick we hide from each other behind double-paned glass, but we know the basics.
The old family house is my nephew's now, and his wife is a vegetarian. Their new baby will be dressed in oranges, light browns and golds. At dinner, there will be Ginsing Cola, tofu turkey and stuffing. I'll wear fake pearls.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Judy Cabito on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008 at 6:24 PM
Love this visual feast of memories Meg, starting with “the twisting glow of a coil cigarette light.”
Posted by Donia Carey on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 at 8:54 PM
Beautiful story, Meg. Your language is unique and entrancing. As Judy says, right from the glow of the cigarette lighter we travel through magical territory. The woman's loneliness is, so desperate that she phones her husband to hear his voice--though sometimes she gets the "mouse brown voice" of his girlfriend. The final paragraph is inspired.
Posted by Kim Townsel [ email@example.com
] on Friday, December 19th, 2008 at 7:12 PM
Wonderfully melancholy, Meg.