Snow Storm

My mother folding diapers.  In our summer backyard, my two year old sister on the swing set. I loved her round body, the red dress she wore in black and white pictures. Her skin brown like loafers.   My brothers couldn’t make me resent her.  In the backyard an incinerator. Jews.  Wherever there is an incinerator, Jews.  Even then, before I knew there were Jews, only church on Sundays. Black smudges, smoke. Danny threw Johnny’s baseball mitt, in the incinerator. Johnny had busted something of Danny’s, but that was no reason.  Even I knew that. Incinerators. When did they disappear? And milkmen. The square repository for our cache of chilly bottled milk, and the fantasy of cottage cheese curds or chocolate milk my mother never ordered.

Early 1960s, not so bad. But the small yellow house, with the apple tree in the back, should have been happy.   My mother’s complaining chafed our ears, just as easily as a cuff. The armchair of my father, after work, while he read the newspaper in fair light. The balancing act of sitting between the span of his arms, as the pages of paper turned.  His warmth, and soft, fat body.  His aftershave or pipe. Away from mother, while she banged dishes in the kitchen, fussed with dinner.  One winter, he tucked my hand in his—an archetypal memory, walking in snow at night, the streetlight.  I had no gloves.  He tucked my hand in his and deposited both into his overcoat pocket.  Concerned.  His mother died from pneumonia.  Once when I had a fever, he hoovered defensively over me.  Offered me a hot toddy, whiskey and sugar.  German measles. Fever.  My mother standing in the background crossing her arms, irritation sharding her voice, scolding father for spoiling children.

Before things got bad.  Before my kid-sister in her bare feet and nightgown crossed the street in the moonless night air, to the neighbors after my mother.  When they used that term—kid sister.  When I wasn’t going to be the only one left at home.  When we spent the night away from the house, from my father on the road, who might come home at any time.  To the Ginsbergs, Jews.  Jordy, and his small wife delicate as a slipper, jealous of my mother.  Now, ghosts. Jordy and my mother drinking pots of coffee during the day.  My father always on the road. His fedora. On Sunday, a splattered plate of eggs hitting the wall like a white moon, just missing Johnny’s head.  Meant for my father.  Bacon grease leaving white tracks, skidding footprints down the wall. After Christmas time, after we washed the dishes.  “Ho, ho, ho,” Santa said, in my father’s treble, “Little Johnny, and Danny, and Amy.  I’ve heard you’ve been good.” After I dreamed of the milkman’s boot-crunch in snow.  A tender smoky blur.  Mom in stretch pants. Beautiful, like Elizabeth Taylor.  Now, who knows.  She’s in the hospital for smoking too much. Finally. The walls of her old apartment were yellow, hemp-like. That was years ago.  How can anyone smoke so much, be so angry and get so old.


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