Birthday Girl:1950 by Linda McCarriston

for my mother
The day the package came
from Sears, you were ironing
and smoking, in the one
slab of light that elbowed in
between our three-decker
and the next one.
World Series Time, and the radio
bobbing on the square end
of the board told over
what you already knew:
The Sox are the same old
bunch of bums! you said, slamming
the iron into some navy gabardine;
the smells of workclothes—Tide
and oil—rose up together
in steam around you,
like the roar of the crowd at Fenway
and the shouts, downstairs,
of Imalda, getting belted
around her kitchen at noon.
Some people can make anything
out of anything else. If you still can,
remember that day
like this: you douse your cigarette
and squat down close; I open
the box addressed only to me
and find inside the pair of sandals
you call harlequin, with straps
as many colored as a life.
I am happy. You buckle them on me.
Every room is dark but where we are.
Every other room is empty.


  1. Wow. What an amazing piece of writing.

    As a kid whose every scrap of clothing came from the Sears Catalog and arrived in a package, I remember oh-so-well the thrill of anticipation and satisfaction of arrival as well as a world where my mother ironed, ironed, and ironed and cleaned, cooked, and tended and never sat down.

  2. This was a tremendous piece of writing (and I really admire that kind of writing, because I think that I am absolutely incapable of ever producing anything like it.)

    I have not thought in a long time about associating my mother with ironing but, hey, she did (and still does) iron absolutely everything - even underwear.

  3. My mother is an iron-er, too. I, sadly, am not. My two-year-old just saw my mom ironing and said, "What are you doing, Nana?"

    And thank you for bringing back the memory of the Sears packages!


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