“remember when” by alan jackson played on the stereo loud
enough to chase the smell of summer through every room
in the house and out the open windows.
my mom was probably sweeping or folding laundry on the couch,
there was a list of chores for my sister and i to finish by the
end of a hot dry day.
my mom loved making lists
-probably still does-
she had a planner to keep her schedule,
and dad’s and the three kids’ lives in a busy order.
i have to dig deep to remember these things like the music she played,
the morning chores and breakfast, how i would sit on the edge of an empty
bathtub, pointy elbows on scraped knees, while she curled her
pitch black hair and applied smokey shadow to her eyelids.
there was always a candle or wax lamp in the kitchen that
smelled like fresh cut frasier or mulled wine or sweet gardenias,
i learned to know what season it was by the early evening flame on the counter.
summer nights were a different kind of special when my socialite
mother had another family over for a bbq and swimming, these
are some of my favorite memories.
july nights were warm, the temperature was the same in and
outside, all the windows were open while music played on the stereo
loud enough to fill the house, the scent of chlorine mixed
with the tennessee honey candle in the kitchen, which meant the moon
was watching the stars dance across the surface of the pool.
water dripped down my ankles while i walked through the
sliding glass door to my parents’ room to their bathroom,
sitting on the edge of the toilet next to the empty tub, my toes barely
touched the white linoleum floor.
it is difficult to remember these times, they seem so distant with a million
memories between my mom’s shadowed eyes, charcoal curls
and this moment.
recently, i’ve decided to reach for forgiveness, it’s a challenge to reconcile
some memories, i keep a list of my mother’s injustices she apologized for
-more than once-
telling me that i crushed all her hopes and dreams but those words
echo in my ears every time i say the word lesbian in her house.
but we have the same eyes, same smile, same handwriting, same laugh,
i cannot escape her memory.
i love to light candles or wax lamps to mark the seasons,
i keep a planner with classes, birthdays, and to-do lists
i sprayed her perfume on my baby blanket, the one
she crocheted while i was still in her tummy.
at thirteen years old i was taller than her, but she was still stronger,
on my tippy toes i would reach something for her on the top shelf,
for dinner she would make something hot with salad on the side
with fresh fruit from her garden down the hill behind the pool.
she suffered the half death of a child she still puts to bed every night,
she used to cry when she was mad or when my baby sister wouldn’t
sleep or maybe when she slept alone.
she got older, i got older, struggled to grow into this skin and
new spaces for love.
momma, do you remember when
old country music danced with sweet gardenias and
open windows breathed in summer air?
Sidney is a first year MA candidate for Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. They are pursuing research on interracial lesbian relationships in United States women’s reformatories and penitentiaries during the early twentieth century.