In My Mother's Kitchen

There’s a lacquered table with piles of bills and junkmail,
food turned gummy and black, old spills in the cracks. The oven is yellow, faded. The back right burner, slack, disconnected, holds the checkbook, sets of keys, a report card to sign. At the counter my mother frets: how on earth
did it get so messy? Though, for now, doesn’t say a word.
Her mother walks in, a sort of flightless bird, carrying the newspaper, “Isn’t there a place one can sit and read The Wall St. Journal?” My mother knows her reading will not be internal. She’ll peer over the edge and wordlessly judge, not spoiling for a fight. It’s 1986, two years left of Reagan, to her mother’s delight, to my mother’s chagrin. “Most of what we make these days goes to taxes…” Her mother sighs and shakes her head. My mother
willfully relaxes, before putting it to bed. “Mom, that’s not even true. You’re retired, and comfortable. Besides, you died in 1982!”