Several Words About Words

I am in the business of words. I aim to teach children to love them. Sometimes, they end up thinking they hate them but I think it’s safe to assume that one day, they’ll come around. When I think about “being in the business of words,” I realize that this is really a huge club. Don Draper is in the business of words. John Mayer is. Tupac was. Salespeople are. Politicians even, with varying degrees of success. Words are every single thing. Some archeologists and historians, also word people, estimate that hominids first developed language 1.75 million years ago (study described here). They weren’t even homo sapiens but there they were blabbing about god knows what, auditioning for Geico commercials, and eating paleo.

In undergrad I took a class called Semiotics. It’s the study of signs and symbols. Apparently, it’s a big deal in Canada. It really awakened my brain. My teacher was about 142 years old but sharp and fascinating (and I remember she was C. Hill so her email was She taught us that “tree,” for example, is just a symbol for that large plant outside. We’ve just all agreed that the sound “tree” stands for those things. All words are just agreed-upon symbols. Because we said so. Tree. Also, what are our names but symbols for ourselves? Sure, “Amanda” has a Latin meaning but I have borrowed that word to stand for me. Is your brain awakened yet?

I love words. Chas and I share some of the same taste in music but appreciate the same songs for completely different reasons. He goes for the sounds, the inventiveness, musical cleverness. I am all about the lyrics. Remember your AIM profile and how you used to fill it with only the best lyrics? Oh yea, I was all over that. Shamefully, my quote in my 8th grade yearbook is from the band O Town. I can’t even bring myself to type the line I chose as I’ve revealed too much already. (Sidenote: It looks like they’re still touring minus their own version of Justin Timberlake, Ashley Parker Angel, whom I saw perform the male lead in Wicked at the Hippodrome in 2015.) Still, lyrics are what grab me and pull me into music. Even when I am belting out, “Hit the cat spa,” and later finding out that Sia is saying “Hit the dance floor,” I’m still all about the lyrics.

Then there are first words. As I am learning what it’s like to have peers with children, I am also hearing about first words. Mine was brush. My parents said I blurted it out while they were brushing my full head of hair at 10 months and then didn’t speak for another 30 days. In addition to the first word one says as a baby, are those first words you hear in life. I will always remember the feeling of the bouncing dance floor at Seacrets, 1 a.m., sweat and confetti and popped balloons, and my husband, then boyfriend, telling me “I love you” for the first time. It felt like my veins were exploding. Then again, that could have been too many of those slushy drinks called “Pain in da ass.” There’s also that first time one of your students accidentally calls you “Mom” and you realize you’re doing something right.

In the study of children’s brains, early word exposure is a determining factor of success throughout school and even later in life. There’s something called the 32 million word gap that plagues children who grow up in welfare homes where they are exposed to less vocabulary. By the time they are four years old, on average they’ve been exposed to 32 million less words at home than children of professionals. In a way this explains a lot about my day to day. But it makes me sad because some kids just did not have a chance.

One more education-related note before I switch to something pithy. Growth mindset has changed the way that I speak to every single person in my life. And almost every teacher I know who’s been exposed to it says that. Instead of saying the words, “You’re so good at that!” It’s “You put forth so much effort and look at the result!” Rather than “Math isn’t your thing,” you’d say “Let’s put more work into algebra” or “You’re not there yet with geometry.” It’s all about “the power of yet” and that if you put forth enough effort, what can’t you do? Growth words over fixed words. I wish I’d known about growth mindset when I decided I was “bad at math” in 7th grade.

Okay, enough didactics. Onto The Bachelor. Yes, not only was my 8th grade quote from a one-hit-wonder-band named for the city of Orlando, Florida but I also am part of Bachelor Nation. Ugh. I know, it’s the worst. But, it’s also the best. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are among the most soothing parts of my life. They’re not enriching, genuine, or even stimulating. For all I know, the whole thing is a sham. But they are predictable and calming.  And I absolutely love them. And I love to hate their words. I’ve not yet played a drinking game with The Bachelor but if I did, I’d be on the floor within two commercial breaks (about 8 minutes). Brigid, Rosh, Becky, Dot, Sara, Chris, Aunt Carol, Janna, all my fellow citizens of Bachelor Nation, feel free to add to the list below–or to ask me to remove you from the list above. Commonly used words and phrases on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette include:

  • amazing
  • the most exciting season ever/yet
  • the triple threat (referring to a woman who is smart, funny, and beautiful–apparently unheard of for most male contestants)
  • forever
  • there for the right reasons
  • the journey to find love
  • getting down on one knee
  • a connection
  • I’m not here to make friends.
  • her and I (and many, many other misuses of objective case pronouns)
  • falling for him/her
  • never
  • My husband/wife could be in this room tonight!
  • having my guard up
  • letting my guard down
  • open
  • skeptical
  • My biggest fear is… also: and that’s my biggest fear 
  • This is my hardest week yet.
  • The most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make.
  • May I steal you away?
  • express my feelings
  • one of the (pronounced thee) biggest nights of my life
  • to bring home to my mom
  • vulnerable
  • I need that rose.
  • I see a future with him/her.
  • intentions
  • This process can work.
  • My family is so important to me. Other common version: My family is everything to me.
  • process
  • How are you? I’m good.
  • _______________ (insert city here) is the perfect place to fall in love.
  • I/She/He deserve(s) to find love.
  • let myself fall
  • I hate group dates.
  • I need time with him/her.

Man, just reading that list makes me eager for the next ep! And, I am not being sarcastic.


Here’s a picture of my fridge to show you that I still love inventive uses of words and my brain hasn’t been completely wiped by The Bachelor Franchise. Every time I open the fridge I read “the aching for power stops my gifts,” which I believe is a Chris Eby original.

Another great–and by great I mean awful–place to find words is in the food world. I cringe when I see “piled high,” “blistered,” “chargrilled,” “tossed with” because I am convinced they are meaningless. Also, what does cold-pressed mean? I don’t actually want the answer to that question (I already googled it and it actually does have a meaning) but my point is that we consumers don’t know or maybe even care that these words mean nothing to us. I hate that companies and restaurants can just throw these words out there and assume we’ll bite. And we do! We bite. I bite a lot. I mean “pure premium.” What is pure premium? I think it’s just an excuse to use alliteration and sell orange juice. No one is in the store with his/her spouse saying, “Let’s get this one! It’s pure premium!” Deep breaths…

My last and maybe best example of a word realm is at school. My non-teacher-friends love to hear what the kids are “saying these days.” I remember about four years ago at my old school, K told me that my eyebrows were “on fleek.” I told her it was mean to make fun of people and checked my face in the bathroom as soon as I could. Then that night I looked it up on urban dictionary and saw that “on fleek” was actually a good thing. Now it’s so ubiquitous that the wine store down the street sells a beer called “On Fleek.” When a phrase goes from Baltimore’s youth to a crunchy granola brewery, you know it’s dead. The other day, T pulled one out of the woodwork and said, “Ms. Eby, why you always tryna crack slick?” That’s always been one of my favorites. It means “getting smart” which means being sassy. One time at PMS I said something in class to a kid who was acting up and everyone started yelling “She got in your butt!” Not my favorite. My new favorite though and the kids nearly do flips in the air when I say it is, “Go awf babysis.” This is a term of encouragement–or conversely, mocking someone who is “going off.” Another oldy (oldy is about 8 months old or more) is “He bae.” This means that a guy is cute, stemming from “He’s my bae,” which means “He’s my baby” which means “He’s my boyfriend” which just became “He bae.” Now that’s evolution. Ben and Zack, this is what one of my students said about you two when you visited me at PMS. “They bae.” The other day at school I heard the girls yelling “Ms. D say we too lit! Ms. D said we too lit!” Being “lit” or “turnt up” is like being hyper or out of control. They flipped out when my teacher pal next door (also white) said the class was “too lit” which then made them more lit, I’m guessing. In addition to being told I am cracking slick, too smart, I am often told that I am “extra.” Being “extra” can also be called “doin’ too much.” When I am extra or doin’ too much (seemingly 24/7) I am holding someone accountable, encouraging someone to walk instead of run, or asking a kid to raise her hand. See? Extra.

English is pretty incredible–maybe that’s why most Americans, including me, speak only it while countries around the world boast a majority of multi-lingual natives (not fact-checking this, just going off of people I’ve met). When you’re speaking, writing, texting, tweeting, whatever, remember that words do matter, despite what some people in power might lead us to believe.

Family in White and Denim.JPG

I received so many comments last week about the photo of my family in our woe whites and denim, I felt like I had to include this year’s re-staging of the same photo. The two young men closest to me in the photo are the ones labeled as “bae” by my former student as mentioned above.



Gratitude (no eye rolls)

When I am in a yoga class and the teacher begins to set up her intention for class, in my head I am saying “Don’t say gratitude. Don’t say gratitude. Don’t say gratitude.” Lately it seems, though, that she almost always says “I am suggesting the intention of, inhale, exhale, gratitude.” Often at the end she (whoever the she is) tells a story about being grateful that she can do a headstand or grateful that she’s not good at bridge pose but has been getting into it very easily lately. Maybe she hates twists but they’ve been really helpful when she tries to do side crow! And I am thinking: “Horray! Yahoo! Ramalamadingdong!” as I roll my internal eyes. As I told you in the last post: I am an ass hole.

It’s not gratitude that has me rolling my internal eyes. It’s not even these lovely yoga teachers with their painted-on pants and complicated sports bras and somehow perfect hair despite 105 degree heat. In fact, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em (more on that later)–not that I am trying to “beat ’em.” It’s just that they almost always say gratitude and when I hear the reasons they’re grateful, I know there’s more they’re not telling us. I realize they may have to tie their “reasons” to yoga, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, we get a juicy story or a TMI confession. Sometimes we hear stories from their lives and why they’re actually grateful to be standing here in this yoga-utopia teaching because shit was hard before and now it’s better. Those are the tidbits I’m grateful for. I feel gratitude for people being real. For realz.

I love gratitude. I enjoy writing thank you notes and I always want people to know when I am grateful. I also thrive on others acknowledging their appreciation for me–is that childish? Oh well. I just bought an awesome wall sticker from the Dollar Tree that I hung in my classroom that says “be grateful.” See? I’m not that much of an ass hole. I think my issue with the canned-yoga-gratitude-intention is that I am lucky enough to have real gratitude and I ain’ got time for these fluffy reasons for it. Saying you’re so grateful you can do a headstand just doesn’t make me join the collective nod after the namaste. Because I am so fortunate. For realz.

I am grateful that 9 years ago this past Wednesday, some drunk idiot hurled a full beer can across the infield of Pimlico during the Preakness Stakes. That idiot had no idea that he (come on, we know it was a he) was creating an eternal partnership. Because that beer can hit Charles “Chas” Arthur Eby IV in the side of his head. And Chas Eby went to the medical tent where they gave him a box-worth of bandaids and told him to head to the hospital for stitches. So Chas Eby, having already paid for his ticket, decided to wait on the stitches but to slow down on the Natty Bohs, you know, for medical reasons. Somewhere between the EMT and an uninsured $800 bill for four stitches in his ear, he found me. And he said, “Do you know that I am a salsa dancing champion?” and then we talked for four hours straight, and then for 9 more years after that. I feel gratitude to have found my absolute perfect partner because of some plastered dingbat’s dangerous idea of a good time.

Amanda and Chas copy.tiff

This is what marital bliss looks like on a random Monday morning. (Sidenote: I am not grateful for the 37 minutes it took me to get this photo in here and I still couldn’t get that check mark off.)

I am grateful that on Wednesday’s field trip, N found a “callapillar” she named Cynthia. I am grateful that she carried her around for a half hour talking about Cynthia’s unique character traits to anyone nearby. I am truly grateful that I thought to take a video just as Cynthia pooped–not completely sure it was poop–and N starting yelling “My callapillar poop!” That’s the stuff that makes teaching incredible. Watching children from Baltimore City use a map to wander through the woods as many of them feign utter discomfort, made me breathe more deeply because I could tell they loved it. Unfortunately, Cynthia met with a violent death at the hands of B. But, please let me know if you’d like me to send you the video of the callapillar poop. It’s maybe the cutest thing I have ever seen. Gratitude.


N and Cynthia.

I am grateful for my parents. Without getting too mushy, they literally show my sister and me HOW to LIVE. They both live for others. They are socially conscious, intelligent, and just so giving. When asked to treat us like we’re 15 and do favors that parents do for their teenaged children, they never hesitate. This week, while my dad was letting the roofer in my house, my mom was with me at school co-teaching Crochet Club to my girls. When I say thanks to my dad, I get an emoji wearing sunglasses and “LOL, D” which he says means “lots of love.” And if I offer my mom a week off from Crochet Club, she says, “Maybe some things should never be cancelled.” Nancy and Dick have also taught Aubrey and me how to laugh. We eat dinner there every Sunday and giggle constantly. Go ahead, Dad, start crafting your snarkiest comment. Gratitude.


And they’re so cute!

I am grateful for the last 8 months which have quite literally shaken me to the core. A rough time has reminded me of my incredible support network. I wish I were self-actualized enough to say that I am grateful for the hardest parts of the fall and winter–I’m not there yet. But, while my spinning brain kept me awake all night, when I sobbed in the faculty bathroom and tore my fingers to shreds, when I’d go running at 4:30 in the morning just because I was awake and I didn’t know what else to do with my nervous energy, I knew my people were there. I don’t think there’s been a time when I have drawn more from the love of my friends and family than my during my recent struggles. There’s not a person I love who didn’t hug me, text me, call me, write to me, squeeze me (probably wanted to shake me) repeatedly. They ate with me, drank with me, and best of all, helped me do that weird transition from crying into laughing. Now that I am on the other side of it (pretty sure), I can really see how lucky I am. And man, am I grateful.

Here comes a long sentence with a lot of -ing words.

It’s those moments when I am standing in a glacier lagoon with Chas, being told by someone else that I am so obsessed with Aubrey that it’s creepy and how no one will ever get me like she does, it’s not being able to verbalize all my sister is to me, it’s when I am walking down the aisle ahead of a forever friend wearing the same dress as another forever friend, reading my latest note from Steph, driving to Seacrets in January in February talking about the next MVP, listening to Caitlin say “HECK YES,” giving flash tats to my 18 year old male cousin, when I am taking a 3 generations photo, texting Aub and Lauren for the 31st time today, talking to 93-year-old Grandma Frieda about her childhood, rambling to Morgan as she’s cuddling her new dog and admitting “Life is so good,” banging on a drum with Chris’s friends while Chas wears a cookie costume, marching alongside fantastically strong women for several worthy causes, screaming for the Orioles with 17 of my favorite girls, planting succulents with Cindy, watching Piper and Joe’s ears bounce in unison while they trot, walking the three blocks to Chris and Gabby’s, stopping and realizing that I have been friends with Sarah for 25 years, meeting my parents at CVP for their Happy Friday tradition, cheering for Mercy like I am 16, gushing to my Gram about my life as she laughs at all of my jokes, sipping that first IPA of the night, searching for hippos and zebras with Shar, hurting my face muscles by laughing with Mare, Jer, and Katy, blending the perfect smoothie, waking up the morning of the Baltimore Running Festival, snapping the ball to Aiello on the Secret of the Booze, absorbing a podcast with the windows down, maintaining my balance in an asana, analyzing any situation with Skip, eating a homemade chocolate chip cookie, group texting my homegirls about things I would not tell everyone, wrapping a gift I know my mom will love, running with Karen or Becky dishing about everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong, sweating in my own garden amid plants we lovingly try to grow, drinking wine with my book club, booking a flight to somewhere new, teaching and I can see that they get it, opening a card with a long, handwritten note, keeping track of “weirdness points” with Chas, calling my Boosh to say I love you, spending a full day with Darnay and Lauren like it’s 2006, talking a friend through her first armpit waxing experience, partying with my fabulous aunts in Nashville, pretending to be a pirate at a bachelorette party, ranting about politics with Renee, when I am holding Jaiden whose mother I met when we were 14, it’s those moments when I am absolutely breathless with gratitude. For realz. I am so grateful for my people and my circumstances.

So when I finish yoga teacher training in August, if they actually let me teach, I might set the intention of gratitude a time or two. But you better believe my anecdote will not be about some twisty posture. It won’t be about getting my feet above my head or getting my fingertips to my heels. It’ll be about the very stuff of life. It’ll be about humans that make me in disbelief that I am so fortunate–even that dumbass with his flying beer can. Gratitude. No eye rolls.

Aub and Amanda RaceCafe Hon


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An Urban Education Wishlist

I was at a _________________ recently. I’m going to leave out the word for the sake of ambiguity. It was one of those events where you sit at tables with people you don’t know and either get along swimmingly or dig your fingernails into your palms as they wax poetic about something infuriating. I could not stop staring at and listening to a woman whining about Baltimore (a blog for another day). She rambled about the crime “they don’t tell you about,” and the utterly sinister people who reside there (my words, not hers). She shared her one example of each of the city’s transgressions–her cousin’s stolen tools, a death she knew of, and a crime she’d heard from someone who heard from…someone! GASP!

We get it. There’s crime in Baltimore. Duh. But maybe your idiot cousin shouldn’t leave his tools on the front seat of his car. I particularly loved this anecdote from her because she had asked where I lived before this. I told her. And then she told her tales to the other lady at our table as an example of how everyone’s got it wrong about the very neighborhood I told her I lived in. Couth.

When she started a sentence “You should see the types of people,” I had to get up from the table. These are phrases I hear and then feel in every single ligament, muscle, tendon, bone, and in the the cartilage in my ears. And I do hear them. In fact, I listen for them. Partially because I fancy myself a defender of many things. Partially because I need to know what bigotry I am up against. Mostly because I so badly want to change a mind, help someone see something another way. And, in the depths of my heart, it’s because I’m just an ass hole.

Listening to “These types of people” made me wish I weren’t too angry at that stranger to talk to her. I wanted to pull her aside and tell her my wishlist for the people who live in the city, namely for the children. Maybe she could help. Better yet, maybe her tool-less cousin could help.

My disclaimer is that this list is not complete nor completely thorough. It is my imagination and my idealist-self manifest. I am not going to pretend it is well-researched or scholarly. It’s emotion and a cursory knowledge of why I see what I see every day. So here is an incomplete, Amandy-crafted, rawly emotional urban education wishlist. It’s my blog and I can cry if I want to.

1. I wish that everyone, seriously everyone, had to tour a school in their own neighborhood and one in an urban area (if he/she did not live in an urban area). I think it would open a lot of eyes just to see what schools looks like inside, especially urban schools. See what we do. See what we cannot do. See what we need. See what we do not need. See the eyes of a child who does not have parental support but wants so desperately to learn. Just see. I dream of these tours for the public. I would be happy to lead them. I’d call it “Balti-tour, School Edition.”

I’d introduce you to A who cannot sit in a chair but is five grade levels behind. She’d show you her writing in our 5th/6th class and you’d see that every piece begins “Hi, I’m A and I love basketball,” because that’s where she is right now.

You would meet B who is above grade level and above maturity level but has to deal with the behaviors of her peers every day. She would show you her campaign for school president: “Liberty, Justice, and Hoodies.”

T would come up to you with no introduction except a hug. She may show you that she covered her hands in glue in math class because focusing is just so difficult. She’d hand you a piece from art class and tell you to keep it. Then as you turned to go, she would ask when you’re coming back.

2. I wish that my kids knew how intensely we want them to succeed. I wish they could walk around in my head like “Inside Out,” move things around and really see that my driving force is their success. I wish they knew that when I ask them to take off their jackets or point out that they threw trash in the recycling, I am merely showing them how to be citizens. That same intensity I felt for that woman’s words (every single ligament, muscle, tendon, bone, and in the the cartilage in my ears), I feel it times a million for my kids’ success. And I really wish they knew.

3. I wish that people, including our kids, respected schools as coliseums of learning. I wish there weren’t trash all over our campus. I wish we didn’t have to have bars on our windows to stop break-ins.

My crew and I did a trash-pick a few months ago. We filled four large bags in 20 minutes and we still weren’t done but it was time for the classes to change. They loved doing it. But then, there is also a trash on the ground problem inside of our school, too. Somehow I wish we could teach them to respect this place that works obsessively for their success. But, in a building from 1953 with mice, cockroaches, opaque windows, and on and on, how can we?

4. Aside from the state of the building and the lawns that surround it and the other barriers mentioned and not mentioned above, I wish my kids knew how great they have it. I can show them a video about Malala Yousafzai and they can see her facial paralysis from her gun shot to the head. I can tell them about how my Afghani friend had to leave her country because she taught women. We can read about Little Rock and Ruby Bridges. I can go on about how our desks and chairs are new and cute! I can trail off on how I literally just memorized things when I was in school and they actually get a chance to learn. For realz, learn. But when you start on a tangent like that it’s usually met with 180 degree eye roll and a catchphrase like “These teachers…” I get it. But I wish they knew.

5. I wish I were different too. I wish I could better see my kids’ perspective. From a selfish point of view, I don’t wish that–many of them have gone through way more than I have in a third of the time. I grew up near some of them but my schooling was completely different. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a brother or not know my father. Not cursing my blessings, but somehow if I could know their perspective without having lived it, I’d do it. I’m not nearly as brave or strong as most of my kids.

6. I wish they knew how deeply I feel cut when they insult me, ignore me, or just apathize (should be a word, right?). Sometimes they do know because I cry, and kind of a lot, but I wish they knew that I carry that around. I wear those comments, eye rolls, and blank, untouched papers like so many saddle bags. I’m getting better at pretending things roll off my shoulders. But that’s pretend. At the heart of this matter, I wish that some of them knew better how to treat people, because I wish they’d been treated better by others first. You give what you get.

Conversely, but still #6:

I wish they knew how incredible it feels to receive an email like this one I got Thursday:

“HI Ms.Eby

thank you so much being there for me in such a hard time.And i know you have problems of your own like kids being smart and rude but you are one of the nicest person i know .Have a good day”
That’s what removes the saddle bags. That’s why I wish with every single ligament, muscle, tendon, bone, and in the the cartilage in my ears that they knew. All of the theys. Hey, a girl can wish.

National Poetry Month…was last month

April is National Poetry Month. Despite my being an English teacher for 8 years, this is really the first year I’ve actually known this and in some ways, lived it. I am trying to put some of my poetic energy to “paper” because I feel pretty invigorated by the events I attended recently:

  • Louder Than a Bomb: an annual poetry competition mentioned in the hair post.
  • Writing Outside the Fence: a class my friend Tim taught for a month in Mondawmin Mall. For last week’s meeting, he shared some unconventional poets’ works and we wrote and shared our poetry from widely varying experiences.
  • Be Free Fridays: a monthly open mic night at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center on Howard Street, an absolutely incredible and many times hilarious display of superb artists and poets who give of themselves willingly (including my friend Steph).
  • Non-Competitive Poetry Slam: On Friday, May 5, the Month After National Poetry Month celebration continued with a non-competitive poetry slam at my school.

If you’re local, you should seriously consider checking out all of the above or, just make the trip to Baltimore. 🙂

(Resisting the urge to type “anyway,” don’t type “anyway,” don’t type “anyway.”)

My maternal grandfather has been popping into my head a lot lately and had I not been to these events, it may not occur to me that the way to express this is through poetry. But I’m grateful because a poem about him feels perfect. Grandpop died on August 22, 2015, two days before I started my current job and we opened a school for the first time. It was among the most emotional and confusing sets of 48 hours I can recall. He was not an easy person but that’s what always made me work for his amusement, approval, and love. Here’s to that man we miss–I’m going to aim to explain why (I know my mom and sister have already started crying).

Grandpop in the army.JPG

Vincent A. Papa

Grandpop First Day of School.JPG

Grandpop and Amanda and Aubs.JPG


I can close my eyes and conjure.

How everything stayed the same.

A perfect, persistent memory,

Of a house and a man.

To me, they are one.

I’ve gone back once but it’s hard,

Without him in that place he seemed like he’d always be.

Park on the street under “Nancy’s tree,”

Up the walk to see him sitting on that porch chair.

Rocking. Staring. Silent.

Then, “How’s your car?”

I can see a slight stain I made on the window sill,

Some balloon project with Aubrey, a hundred years ago.

Through that storm door,

The old and sturdy kind that would actually hold back a storm.

I can see his scalp showing through the window,

To see that it’s us.

I deeply know the smell of his house,

Sweet. Comfort. Perfect pink carpet.

It smelled like peace.

The current newspaper barely touched on the table.

The way the sun begged to enter the living room,

Only a few rays allowed to pass through.

I breathe in toast in the kitchen and “buns” in the microwave.

Peach buns from Woodlea Bakery. Where else?

Tiny 4 ounce cups of soda,

Avocado-colored plates,

And pearlescent Palmolive from the pump.

Shiny rooster statues,

Shellacked with care and displayed with pride.

The sound of that wooden trash can lid fitting into place,

It always seemed like it wouldn’t fit.

He’d never allow that.

That row of clown dolls above the knotty pine basement walls,

The click of opening the movie cabinet,

Housing all of Julia Roberts’ blockbusters.

I remember that time I lost “Welcome to Mooseport.”

It was not okay.

His cotton hued hair,

Combed in gentle waves,

Like Cefalu’s Tyrrhenian Sea,

He’d never see.

I’d catch him looking at his arms and hands.

That olive Sicilian skin.

One of the best gifts he gave me.

I wish he’d seen its origin.

His face was cleanly shaven and smooth,

Smoother than an octogenarian’s.

That Roman nose,

With a tiny tilt to the side,

Like all of his descendants.

Me included.

How he would fix his teeth.


The sound of them clicking, click, click, close.

I listened for it.

The phone sometimes stole the silence.

He was a screener.


Then, “Please. Leave. A. Message. After. The. Tone.”

“It’s always for her,” he said always.

I wonder if he said that when we called too.

I miss his slow blink.

From that blue chair,

He’d look down at the floor.

What was he wondering?

And his aphorisms.

“Why do you laugh so much?”

“You drink too much water.”

“Stop talking.”

“Why do you ask so many questions?”

Mom and Aub and I would giggle,

And what we meant was,

You’re a riddle and we want to know you.

And the one we taught him: “I love you.”

It took years.

He’d drag out the youuu like it made him,

Just a little uncomfortable he had to make it sound a little silly.

But I’m proud.

And he taught me persistence.

In his own stubborn way.

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