My grandmother told me,
her mother, Ruth, sat at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee warming her hands,
waiting for her husband to come home and kiss her
and tell her good things. Oh, how she loved to be told good things.
Her sons all went about their business- tumbling in the yard, making a buck here and there; the girl, my grandma, Roz, dusting the banisters,
the cobalt jars, the dark wood and glass gleaming after the rag came down. Friday nights she’d go dancing.
Ruth liked the kitchen, warm and busy in the little old house,
the house her husband built with his brothers, from veteran’s funds. It had bones, but no fat. The women kept the fire burning.
My grandma told me-
She said “but mama, Lidia’s Italian and Eric’s family is from Iceland and what are we?”
And Ruth, her sadness interrupted, replied “Why… we’re Yankees, that’s what we are.”
“But that’s nothing at all!”
“Why, it is! It’s enough to be proud of.”
In the day, Ruth would watch out the window for the odd passerby in the field beyond her rock garden.
Coffee. Reading Freud and Jung. Collaborating with the analysts in her analysis, in her melancholy.
She’d smile until a sadness came by, from which only her violinist could uplift her. Her husband, the musician. He set her above all the worry, with his feet ever on the ground.
And my grandmother told me-
and she said her father would come home whistling and kiss her mother, and she would blush, quite alive, then.
He’d say “Play with me, Ruthie! Go and get your violin!”
And she would refuse “Not while we’re in company!”
One night the eldest, Augustus, came home and heard the two violins and made himself scarce, amused.
And “the funny thing is,” she said, “from the house on the hill two violins could be heard for miles, if you were listening.”