Parents in poetry. Unwrapping the years

Thanksgiving '87 Finally, the dinner dishes done and done, Mama, my daughters and I gather at the long, empty table. Out of a sea of snapshots from the big credenza drawer out of the envelope - one of many marked ``To Be Sorted'' - we find the photo I've always wanted: Mama holding Rocky Wee Duchess like a child, her prizewinning Boston terrier, the dog's tongue hanging out sideways, Dad in a hat a ringer for Bogart, his arm thrown around them both on the front steps of 10 Third Avenue East Cleveland, before I was born; Mama hatless, imperial in her Persian lamb the short, flared skirt (Those legs!) and miniature high heels.

Mama disappears from the room just a minute, reappearing with a bundle of tissue a look of conspiracy unfolds her package gingerly with aplomb, to one shoe size two-and-a-half brown leather, its worn ankle strap. ``This,'' she announces, ``this is one of the pair I wore the day I met your father forty-nine years ago this August,'' its mate lost like the years.

She slips it on as if Third Avenue were yesterday. We marvel but the moment is all hers. Mama slowly removes the shoe grazes her ankle, returns it rewrapping her treasure her adolescence, that sharp memory putting them away; then swiftly she attends to the table, stacks photos scoops them into their envelopes forgetting that I asked again for just that one.

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