Over the years, as I told my daughter stories from my childhood, even when I thought she wasn’t paying attention, she was absorbing the important parts, the details that gave her the ability to write this poem, which she gave to me as a gift one birthday:
And To My Mother
And to my mother
Philadelphia was something else entirely.
It wasn’t just the art museums, 30th Street Station,
Billy Penn’s hawk-like position atop City Hall,
it was more — held in the memory of her childhood.
She showed me once the house she grew-up in,
and although I found it interesting (for a moment),
the fall of the leaves turning to brown crisp fast,
dirtying the streets and the yard of her past, is the only
thing I can recall — and the crinkling of them
under my feet like the wrinkles on an old man’s brow.
The tea-like tobacco, the red and white striped mints
carelessly forgotten in a pocket, until,
when they were remembered and pulled out,
the fuzz of a coat, dirt, and the smell of a father
lingered on the wrapper;
the drinking, the chocolates shared secretly with another,
and the Wizard of Oz in Technicolor,
do not make me cry. These are not my memories,
and while they are branded in my mother’s thoughts
like a nun’s incessant slapping of a ruler on a trembling hand,
I look at her photographs and see little more than a picture,
an unknown house, an unrecognizable youth, and the
City of Philadelphia that is a 45 minute drive away.
— Laura Smith