by Monica Hall

The familiar barking of neighborhood dogs and the

clinking sound of the narrow metal lid slapping shut

signaled that our mail had been delivered.

At once, I ruffled through the envelopes

rapidly discarding the junk mail.

“We really need a fireplace for all this crap” I griped.

A square-shaped card in a pale blue envelope

caught my eye.

“Mrs. E. Burns” appeared in the return address space.

At first glance, it was not a familiar name.

Upon opening, I discovered it was a sympathy card

from a kindly woman who went to our church.

You had been gone just two months.

Mrs. Burns wrote:

“There is a space created in your heart

when you lose your mother, that can never again be filled.”

I wept and kissed the card.

Thank you Mrs. Burns!

Finally someone who told the truth.

I wearied from all that “time will heal…..” bullshit.

I closed my eyes and thought back to climbing in bed with you,

I was 17 and still longed for the way you would reach over

and softly pat my back, once, twice… and I would drift off to sleep.

I thought too about the first time I saw you and dad dance together:

a wedding where mariachis played Jesusita en Chihuahua.

You and dad tearing it up on the wooden hall floor.

“What the hell?” I said to Rosalie.  “Who knew?”

I remembered the time I attempted to make flour tortillas.

“How do you get them so round, mom?” I lamented.

I held mine up.  “Mine looks like shit.” I grumbled.

“See, it’s not round at all- looks like a map of Africa”.

“Practice makes the preacher” you smiled with a mother’s grace.

Patience and prayer were your strengths.

With a daughter like me, they were a necessity.

Once when I was 16 you opened my bedroom door and spied me

sitting cross-legged on my bed rolling a doobie.

Like a coward I swiftly blamed a guy named Tim F.

But you shook your head saying only this:

“If your father knew about his it would kill him”.

You didn’t pitch a fuss, but I got the message.

I envision you cautioning me to be careful,

as I teetered about on my favorite platform boots.

Eighteen years old and nine months pregnant,

refusing to give up wearing my killer six inch heels.

You said a lifetime of rosaries.

Family. Friends. Strangers.

I didn’t’ matter.  You took care of business.

I think about your last breath.

I was there.

October 12, 2003.

If I could only have you back for just one minute.

What would I say?  What would I do?

I would say nothing.

Instead I would lie quietly,

And wait for the gentle pat on my back, once, twice…

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