Daily Archives: June 6, 2009

When my mother told me…

When my mother told me that clothes made the woman, she was wearing a ragged housecoat with a pack of Pall Malls in the pocket and a rip on the sleeve. Her knees were red from scrubbing our old linoleum floor with a mixture of lye and laundry soap

 When my mother told me to cram all the book learning in my head that I could, she was standing over an ironing board pressing my daddy’s work shirts with one eye on her soap opera – The Guiding Light – and the other on my baby brother who was running around the kitchen with a wet diaper hanging from his backside.

When my mother told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be she was scrubbing our clothes on an old laundry board. The water was cold and her knuckles were red.

When my mother told me that she wrote me every day in her mind and I was the only one of her kids she never worried about, it had been five years since I had seen her face. Two months later she would die before my mother could ever tell me anything again



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Love at First Sight

datsun-oldBefore he opened his mouth I knew I loved him – knew I would love him for a long time. Longer than I had loved the procession of men that had marched through my basement efficiency in the months between December and November. It was the early eighties. I was in my early thirties. My sobriety was still in it’s infancy – just eleven months old. John walked into the P Street meeting and stopped for a coffee before taking a seat in the circle. I nudged the woman who was sitting next to me and whispered, “I am going to marry him.”

When he got up to refill his cup my eyes followed him. He still hadn’t spoken. I liked his brown eyes. His full beard. Long hair. Flannel shirt. He was short. Not thin. Not fat.

“My name is John and I’m an alcoholic.”

“Hi, John.”

“I just moved to Washington from New Jersey to go to law school. I brought everything I own in a 1979 Datsun that’s held together with bungee cords, but I know I’m doing the right thing.”

I decided to invite him to dinner but first I needed to have him vetted by my sponsor Paul. Women are not supposed to have male sponsors but Paul was Southern. Paul was a Poet. And Paul was the only person in AA that I had anything in common with. Besides Paul was loving me until I could love myself.

“Hi. Welcome to Washington. Would you like to have coffee with Paul and me at Martin’s?” I know now that John was such a coffee lover that he would have had coffee with Richard Nixon.

“Sure. I’d like that.”

Over coffee I noticed his New Jersey accent got more pronounced when he spoke passionately about things and he was passionate about everything. He used cream and sugar. Smoked Marlboro’s.

I kicked Paul and signaled surreptitiously that he could go. He left. Smiling a sad smile.

“Would you like to come over for dinner Wednesday night? There is a show on TV I have been looking forward to. The Day After. It’s about nuclear war. It has Jason Robards in it. He’s in the program, you know.”

I was doing what I always did when I was nervous. I was talking too much. I sounded like an idiot. But he didn’t notice.

I made a peasant stew with tomatoes and sausages. Wore my prettiest dress. Made sure I had plenty of coffee. There was a moment of awkwardness when he noticed that the only piece of furniture in my efficiency was a four-poster bed. We ate on the bed. Later we made love on the bed. Slowly he moved his things into the efficiency. The Datsun was eventually towed away but John stayed.


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