Mamaw — My Mother’s Mother

Mamaw — My Mother’s Mother

my grandmother told me the story
of her name when I asked who for
or how she was named Christine
Christine was the 13th of 14
for her father and the 9th of 10
for her mother
her older brother Lesslie
died of influenza before
the close of the First World War
her closest sister Amalta
became a grand diva
of the Eastern Star of Alabama
and married the Postmaster
of Birmingham even though
they lived in Alabaster
and died childless
which is why I sit on her
horsehair overstuffed Victorian sofa

my grandmother told me
she had gone with her mother
to the factory where she worked
where she was sat outside
to wait and not move
when the woman she was named for
a friend of her mother’s
stopped in front of her
and asked the question
do you know who I am?
I asked her
if she did and what
did she say
(she was only 6 or 7)
she looked at me
with her cow brown eyes
without blinking
and told me plain:
I spit in
her face

by the time of our conversation
her Parkinson’s Disease made help
necessary for everything manual
I fed her now just like she fed me
when I was tiny
I held the straw to her mouth
while she suckled a vanilla milkshake
I’d brought with the onion rings
she loved from the Sonic Drive-In

I always cried afterwards
alone in the elevator
of McKendree Manor
but while we were together
only smiled
as she smiled back at me
happy for the next bite
the next sip
and the next salutation

between the spiteful child
and the grateful elder
a life worn smooth
and round as a stone
in the bed
of a mountain brook

Franklin Abbott
April 10 -16, 2009
Stone Mountain

in memoriam Christine Watson Carpenter

The Order of the Eastern Star is the women’s auxiliary of the Freemasons.

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