October 13, 2017

They told me
 not to cry
whatever I do
when I saw my mother
at Valleyhead

She had left me
and my baby sister
to stay with her mother
in the labyrinthian two story brick house
on Off Lord Road

You count days
like months
when you are six
and it has been
since I saw her

She waddled over
from behind the grand piano
and kissed me on the mouth
as we always have
she tasted of cigarettes
familiar yet off-putting

We sat in this room
carpeted in russet floral patterns
that others traced
in their stocking feet
while we held hands

She showed me a picture
a girl here painted for her
to make her not miss us so much, she said

"This is you, and this is your sister" she said pointing at the canvas

"Why do we not have faces?" I asked nervously

"It is abstract.  It is so you can be anything you want to be" she offered.

I smiled running my fingers over the brush strokes
My aunt and her mother
my wardens 
wanton and weary
said it was time to go
too soon - the sun had not yet set
in the ashen winter sky

My mother hugged me
At the door 
"I love you miss muffit"
she said
her voice cracking
like the ice 
my feet

I felt it and knew
I could not stop
salt burned 
my frozen cheeks
as I was pulled
into the car

"Look what you did.  You know what you just put her through.  How could you do that.  We told you not to cry" my aunt scolded as I slumped in the bench back seat.

It would be twenty years
before my mother told me
why she was there
how she tried
and for this
I am grateful

I still have this painting
It hangs in my bathroom 
high on the wall

It took decades
to take down 
the memory
of the shame
hung on
 a six year old
for crying

But I have done it
I have finally found my face

Painting by M. Reed

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