Double Feature

 

Just close your eyes and listen.

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Mud

 

I stood at the kitchen sink, digging milky residue from the crevices of a sippy cup lid with a paring knife, while my pixie ate her cereal.

“What does mud taste like?”

“Like wet dirt.”

“What does wet dirt taste like?”

“Mud.”

“What does mud taste like?”

sigh. “Have you ever tasted dirt?”

“Yeah.”

“Like that. Only goopy like old oatmeal. Not dry.”

It hadn’t occurred to me until just now that I actually DO know what mud tastes like. She may be my child after all.

Photographs and Memories

We sat companionably on the sofa, my four year old pixie wedged in with us, as Les flipped through my old photo album. She closed it and there on the back was a big eight by ten of a girl, hair piled high off her neck and dressed in a strapless gown of black lace cascading over hot pink satin. Diamonds flashed at her neck and ears.

“She’s beautiful!” my pixie gasped. Aww. What a nice thing to say.

“What’s her name?”

THAT killed the compliment. “It’s your mother.”

Oh well. It was a very long time ago and I hardly ever wear sweetheart shaped corsets round the house. She hadn’t believed that lost looking chubby blonde urchin in front of an orange tree was me either and, honestly, I think I look just the same.

As for Glamour Girl circa 1987, the diamonds were rhinestones. I doubt anyone was fooled but they felt like something priceless to me. After all, they were. There was no money for a prom gown that year. I had a very resourceful mother though and a family that believes when someone needs you give. Simple as that. A box was sent from Pittsburgh with the leftover dresses of my twin cousins who, apparently, were quite popular at the formal dances. This is the way I got more than one new winter coat. I would have chosen one of the soft pink gowns. The Spanish Senorita one looked like it might attract attention. I didn’t want attention. In the end it was the only one that fit without alterations though. I looked at myself in that full length mirror in the upstairs hallway and thought what a bold, alluring thing it was and how small and pale and hesitant I seemed in it. My mother was practical. She packed the other dresses up and announced “You need some sun.”

The week before prom found me facepainting at a flea market in the next town over. Maybe two dozen tables lined the fire hall with half that many potential customers milling about. By two o’clock I’d made enough to buy myself a hot dog and a drink. A wasted day. I took a turn around the room, picking things up out of politeness till I came upon that glittering earring and necklace set. I don’t remember what they cost. Whatever it was, I couldn’t pay it. The elderly lady selling them coaxed me into trying the necklace on anyway. She held my hair up and showed me a mirror. We talked a while and then this woman I’d never met did an amazingly kind thing. She asked me to wear the jewelry to my prom. Insisted upon loaning them to me. And so there I am in that photo, sixteen forever, feeling beautiful. Not just because I was dolled up in things far finer than I’d ever known, but because people had made me feel special. It doesn’t matter that my daughter doesn’t recognize me. I remember.