Subj: Escaping Envy
Date: 96-09-14 18:58:23 EDT
My Aunt wore Hattie-Carnegie suits,
my cousins my age, slews of slips,
shirts, dresses, and skirts from Best&Co..
My Mother at her treadle Singer
did her best
to outfit herself and us
in "good" remnants, odd pieces of
"fine wool", puckered piques
in orangey pinks or washed-out blues.
Mother stewed gravelly-looking liver
or uriney-smelling kidneys for dinner;
but we sat, straight as a queen, please,
at the dining-room table
while she lit one cigarette from another
my father endlessly away on business.
At my Aunt's, the cook did steaks,
served by a uniformed maid.
Candlelight reflected in royal blue glasses
which the maid with a silver pitcher filled
with milk or lemonade.
We became window-shoppers,
devotees of make-believe,
knew where the best ponds
for ice skating were,
the library like it was our own.
In Mother's opinion
the relatives were nouveau riche
and my cousins, spoiled.
They drove sleek cars
fast through town;
the children had
charge accounts at the drug store
for ice cream cones and sundaes;
belonged to the country club,
could buy cocoa by a roaring fire,
while we trudged home
with frozen toes.
"You don't need money to be
socially acceptable in Boston,"
Mother declared one day,
signing me up
as a scholarship student
at an old school in Back Bay.
We still didn't have any money.
but I identified with the March girls
and Jane Austen's heroines,
so it was okay.