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Monday, October 25, 2010

HER GRANDMOTHER, Early Morning Refrain, October 2010

Early Morning Refrain,
October 2010

Was not handsome, nor was she particularly wise,
No one ever said she was the smartest,
But she painted well, an artist,
Today her family treasures and enjoys,
Landscapes and still lifes,
Wonderful evidence of her output and skill.

She applied the oil heavily, used both trowel and brush,
And captured wood and river, and rural architecture
All around her North New Jersey home;
She also rendered, remarkably, the wonder of Atlantic
Waves lapping upon her state’s South shore.

And following the common adage,
Different time and place, who knows the fame,
The renown she might have attained?

She dressed her grandchild, a girl, in pricey sets,
And family and neighbors seem to appreciate it,
“Oh isn’t Elsie wonderful!” They often said.

For all intents and purposes, the child was orphaned.
Her Mother was sick,
And had long-time stay in sanatorium,
Dad was gone;
He had run off and started another family.

Two other girls, her sisters, older, likewise deserted,
They stayed with paternal father and mother.
And she, the baby girl, was cast off, separate,
She went to her Mother’s Mother and Father.

Hard to explain the cause, yet jealousy reigned.
The new wife kept their father away,
He hardly ever saw the previous wife,
Or bothered to visit the three girls he abandoned.

Grandma's girl was tall, naturally curly, blonde hair,
And cheek bones high enough to make for real beauty.
Possessing natural, happy disposition,
Her eyes beamed, and when all-dressed-up,
She looked as though,
She might model for children’s fashion magazines.


But Elsie, she did have her ways,
(Really, I am told to put it nicely!)
She paid no heed to underwear,
Only interested in outward appearance,
Think on this a moment, for who could see it?

Though it might be tattered and dirty,
And Lord knows should have been replaced,
Especially when one consider the expense,
She cared not the dollar amount of any outfit’s cost.

She favored subtle, flower prints,
Nothing garish; she was master seamstress,
A healthy woman, who loved her cats
(Fed those both inside and outside the house)
And took in every kind of stray, animal and human.

A former dancer who partook of chorus,
Had her training at LUNA PARK,
And, all who knew her swear,
She practiced kicks, over head, when
She had already celebrated birthdays past seventy.

Did she swap a place for her star on the walk,
Take lead role in gilded cage instead?

No way, she was tough and worked hard,
Created a wonderful home and with natural talent,
She made a big garden, a green-thumb delight.

And guess what? To top it off,
She married well, a union man, a good provider,
A leader, he was respected and adored by all.

Sure he was a hard-nosed guy.
He had his trouble with the Schuberts and the mob,
No easy matter getting a salary for men,
Who changed the bulbs on marquee boards
Who hauled wire, and painted sets,
And whose days involved going up and down ladders.
Her grandpa made sure there was a decent wage
For the man whose job it was
To clean and bag after circus elephants.

Over the years, testimony holds,
-- Here we have no mean feat --
They fostered twenty-five kids, adopted four,
And then wound up having a girl of their own.

But something went amiss;
Grandpa went upstairs to bed,
Grandma slathered in wintergreen, and liniment
Slept on living-room couch at night,
Hard to believe,
How long a time they spent their lives that way.

And after her Mom was finally released from hospital,
Grandmother balked when time came to return
The girl to whom she had grown attached,
The girl she helped to educate and rear.
She pretended the child were her own.
She used every kind of conceivable excuse;
Grandma tied to keep the her real daughter away.

And then I heard,
I heard the granddaughter say,
We sat at kitchen table,
It was very late; sun had begun to signal new day.
I heard her wax, granddaughter waxed on the refrain,
Though she said it quiet and was ashamed,
‘I can not wish she were here.’

‘I do not wish she were here today.’

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