she’d spend most days in a small corner of the kitchen, the twelve-inch black and white television – later upgraded to a sixteen-inch color (a Christmas gift, wrapped in blue and silver paper only weeks before his unexpected passing) – always on. Volume set to ten. Her feet planted squarely on the square tile. Her torso draped in cotton hues of paisley and lavender daffodils. Her limbs in solid polyester. All perfectly pleated. Plates perfectly set. The television box antennae were in constant battle with cabinet doors of oaks & apartment corridors lined of oval frames. Neither wide enough for a reliable reception. The unit’s three channels – 3, 6, & 10 – also in constant battle. Days of Our Lives sparred The Price is Right. Jeopardy jousted with Dateline. Priorities and preferences seeded and positioned long before I sprouted.
an original seed. A seed of unoriginal origins. Yet when my bare/socked/sneakered feet ran on the thickly carpeted – later linoleumed — floor, the box was regifted. To me. My fingers allowed to turn, rotate, and reimagine the tunes, voices, and worlds that would be welcomed into the apartment’s small wall-papered kitchen. Dials in perpetual states of rotation. Always hungry. Only now do I regret never asking what she found so intriguing in the world of her shows, soaps, & stories. They were as much a part of her as her of (love for) me.
she’d spend most days in a small corner of the kitchen. Her back to the non-fiction world, her ears on the television, her eyes on the non-wood burning stove. Blunt cut scissors, the latest TV Guide (a birthday gift, an annual subscription and weekly mailbox guest), and a checkbook (checks of two then one name) stacked on the left. Reader’s Digest, a ball of rubber bands (collected on market trips and stored in tweed coat pockets), and a stack of faded baby photos (mine) on the right. All belongings (prized possessions) in the drawer directly beneath the television. Her hands in constant motion. Chopping, dicing, shredding. After couponing, shelving, and cleaning. In a rotation she knew as well as the prime-time schedule, but which I never followed. A large (non-stick) metal pot perpetually bethroned upon the stove, its back against the wall like the rest of us. She’d toss a bounty of colorful vegetables in and tame the beast with healthy servings of vitamin A, C, and D. While simultaneously teaching that beast the A, B, Cs. Only now do I regret never asking how her tongue managed languages – English, Russian, Polish – of so many worlds. They were as much a part of her as her (love for) me.
she’d spend most days in a small corner of the kitchen. Mind content. Fingers busy. At work. All work focused (on me). Turkey bones presented as timeless wishes. Coffee grounds scattered as specialty brews. My patterns less a puzzle to her than to me. Gulping Twain and King. Sipping vanilla and vacuum-sealed vignettes. My predisposition less a predicament to her than to me. I’d spend most days dreaming of all things bigger. Fossil collections __ preserved and primed __ preferred to individual turkey leg bones. Mind never content. Wishes always busy. All (wishes) focused on me. Only now do I regret never asking what she dreamed of, wished for, imagined. Her silence was as much a part of her as her (love for) me.
i’d spend most nights at a small faux-wood table in the yellow-papered kitchen. Consuming all that she produced/placed/plated before me. Flavors of worlds both near and far. Tapioca pudding. Vegetable noodle soup. Braised beef. Deep fried shrimp. My back to the fictionalized television. My eyes on my non-fiction books – tickets to desired destinations (inspired documentation). And the bowls (bowels) before me. Chicken soup turned chicken salad. Diced tomatoes to scalloped potatoes. I’d consume with neither care nor caution. Always hungry.
each morning she’d wake before (for) me. Each evening she’d sleep after (for) me. A brown paper bag always at the ready. Crisp. Confident. Fresh. Full. of Proteins. of Natural Sugars. of Fortified Liquids. The bag would become as much a part of (my) routine as the (our / single) bathroom. My left arm always ready to take. Seize. Consume. Only now do I regret never asking how she managed. Me. Moments. Minutes. In an unsuspecting life in an unfamiliar city. Two bus rides from her shift. Up two flights of stairs. Down a hallway too narrow for two.
now she – in forms of fairy dust sprinkles & familiar longings — spends most days beside me, in a small though mighty corner of my heart. One that beats stronger. Louder. More rapidly. With each recollection of her standing in the small corner of the small kitchen in the small apartment down the small alley in the big city. I am as much of her as her (love for) me. Only now do I regret never asking for/of/on readings, recollections, recipes, writings, wrongs, & all things she. The stack of paperbacks on her bedside nightstand. The boxed letters in her undersized closet. The soft hymns of her steamed vocals. All as much a part of her as her (love for) me.
Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals. She is the author of Invisible Ink (Toho Pub), On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility (forthcoming, Moonstone Press), and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups (forthcoming Atmosphere Press).