Those black hats were from Estelle’s Boutique on Main Street. Strange hats unique to elderly women that fit their shrinking heads and reshape their fine, limp hair. She used her hat to store mashed potatoes that she’d slip stealthily off her plate when we’d dine at Big Ben’s each Sunday afternoon. Hands of ropy silk sweetly caressing my cheek. Pie tins of clay slid under the sideboard in the kitchen. We’d drop our bikes near her back door, be greeted by Little Debbie cakes and always those tins of clay for our small fingers to prod and mold to our will. LaLa’s ancient, gnarled hands peeling the red from the white of apples, cutting them into slices on a cracked plate, covering the dream with shower of sugar, spearing each one with a toothpick and offering it up like myrrh. The rocking chair in the front parlor. Lace curtains transforming the commuters hurrying home in their cars through the dark to artists unveiling an exhibition. She’d wrap me in her skeleton frame, the rocking chair creaking a snap, snap, snap with each push of her sensibly shod feet, and her soft whisper in my ear, pointing to the ever altering pictures in light running up the gray on gray filigreed wallpaper and across her cracked ceiling. From that perch on her lap, the stairs she one day falls down just visible through the doorway. Once the mashed potatoes, she so carefully wrapped in napkin, tucked in her hat which was then placed back on her head, began to ooze down the side of her face. Well trained by mom and papa, we talked about our recent report cards and discretely kept our eyes on the old, blue broach pinned to the shoulder of her black dress. Her kitchen and the big white stove that she’d use stick matches to light. The grape juice in the funny white box she called a fridge that didn’t look anything like our big fridge that easily fit enough food for six people for a week. My hand in her dry hand. A tissue peaking out of the sleeve of her sweater. Her face, that men found homely and unworthy, turned towards mine. None more beautiful, no voice more loved, no bones more cherished by generations twice removed.
© Julie Ayers