(for Celia Posner)

'Young Women Picking Fruit' by Mary Cassatt
Grandmother and Child, 11/18/73
From left to right: Celia Posner, Deborah Golden Meade, and Gail Golden
Polaroid Land Photograph
Copyright ©2003 Gail Golden

(Click on image for larger version.)
She sat amidst
the clutter of her life,
my grandmother,
and packed it
into shopping bags.
Two sets of dishes,
one for meat,
one for milk,
pots, ladles, an iron cocker spaniel
that cracked nuts.

Into boxes, into bags,
she prepared
for the second great migration
of her life.
Once from Russia
to the bowels of New York,
now from Queens
to the beaches of Miami.
Leaving children,
leaving childrens' children,
looking for sun
and extra years of life.

One pot she held back.
"Here," she said, "You take this.
it makes good soup. You remember?"
I remembered. During the War,
the army took my father,
my mother took a job,
my grandmother took me.

Frightened at first,
piercing with effort
her thick Yiddish accent,
I slipped into the strange
rhythm of her days.

Fish markets we perused,
(me with a father at war
frightened of so much deadness)
she stared the fish down
like so many Cossacks,
selecting only those
who dared to look back.

We blitzed a dozen shops,
a nickel here, a quarter there,
accumulating feasts
from a handful of change.

My turn at last,
she rested in the playground.
"Play," she said.
"Children should play."

Later she cooked:
pots of soups, puddings and fish,
and sometimes I helped.
Then she would share with me
the secrets of her craft,
which seemed to me then
like Kaballah.

At other times,
I did not want to help,
and then she would observe,
"later, you'll have plenty time to cook,
so now you'll play,
children should play".

At night, the strange
peach colored apartment
filled with people
talking of war on faded
couches, waiting for telegrams
in musty halls.

But in the morning again,
we were only two,
marketing through a war,
making a world of playgrounds
and soup pots.

When the war ended
my parents took me
half a continent away
from the peach colored apartment.
My grandmother cried for weeks.
i was silent
and did not smile.

I never lived with her again.
We always kept in touch -
by letter, by phone, by plane,
in thoughts, in wishes, in dreams.

We still keep in touch
I still have her pot.
it always makes
wonderful soup.

Gail Golden

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Copyright ©2003 by Gail Golden