Earliest Memory–The Clothesline

Waiting for my mother to come home from the hospital. Will she come home? Our apple tree out the kitchen window. Bark streams under my fingers. My father’s boss voice on the phone. It’s a girl. My brother, Daniel’s tease, You’re not the princess anymore. The intruding pain. Cutting Bull Winkle from the Trix box, the thick cardboard and silver scissors. The cramp in my hand. But, smart gold brads hinge moose knees and elbows, make Bullwinkle move. A get well for my mother at the hospital. White drapes flutter in my bedroom. When will she come home? My 1960s dad spoons mustard into tuna fish sandwiches. Finally, mother, gentle for once. On the bed with her baby. The ruddy baby. Wonderful and awful. Her head—warm—fussy with mineral oil. Tiny fists and dark eyes. My brothers and I in a photograph, gathered on my parents’ bed. My hair drawn up in a ponytail. My brothers, kittens. My mother’s close-cropped hair, pastel shirt. White shorts. Or maybe I made them up, the white shorts. The pastel shirt. The photograph is long gone. But I remember the sheets, the clean clothesline smell.

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