on my nightstand

Here is a story my mother has never told me.

It is a day she’s relived a thousand times, the twenty-first of June, 1951, the longest day of that or any year.  A day that still hasn’t ended, as some part of her still paces that dark apartment in Jamaica Plain, waiting.  I imagine the curtains closed against the five o’clock sun, hot and bright as midday; her baby boy peacefully asleep; her young self with nothing to do but wander from room to room, still filled with her dead mother-in-law’s things.

At the time she’d thought it a grand apartment, her from Foxbury where the children slept three to a bed.  Even as a boy her husband had had his own bedroom, an unimaginable luxury.  His mother had been injured somehow giving birth and there had been no more children.  This fact alone made the Breens wealthier than most, though Harry’s father had only worked at Filene’s stacking crates in the warehouse.  The entire apartment had come from Filene’s, on the employee discount, the lamps and brocade divan and what she had learned were called Oriental rugs.  Mary herself had never bought a thing at Filene’s.  her own mother shopped at Sears.


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