Archives for posts with tag: twins

EstherandElizabeth, 6 years old birthdayliz near end 1
Full of Days

I am old and full of days, and I know this because I get gift certificates in the mail, small bordered, blue; staccato messages to me approaching a distinctly marked age, as not like my twin’s age of 68 when her soul pierced the body’s shell and flew onward and upward, and when I had a feeling or wrote something like, “We will see each other once again -against the dark space and within the illumined lands of God, and we will remember our days as three year olds, sitting on tricycles of resplendent fire engine red and sturdy wheels, not yet aware of the rivets and tunnels we would face in our growth as twins and as souls, an intertwining of hate and love.

Fraternal twins. She from my father’s stock, the ones that produced fine men and maybe a sister or two who vaulted into business, and he, our father who was very much on earth, despaired at his life, the alcoholic wife, the kids like cartoon blocked figures with hair all over them, reminiscent of cave days, as witnessed by their teenage grunts from, “Where are you going?” and their toned and chanted response, emitting from their closed lips, “Out.” And indeed they went out.

The older girl, older in months; neighbors say they are all Irish twins, born within so many months of the other, tskk, tskkk. The older sister, yeah, you know the one who won the Margaret O’Brien Look Alike contest in Boston? Oh yeah her, she went out, out indeed.

She conceived a child as she melted into the arms of her teenage lover, the one who laughed and came from a poverty so cruel, and she was sent away to a home for pregnant girls, and all I can say is, “Thank God, she didn’t live in Ireland,” the Ireland of the Magdalene Sisters, in whose convent, young girls of impure type were housed in terror. For it was a time of sheer cement walls and slaves blending in, Irish girl slaves, those who might have had an impure thought or wrested themselves away from a pushy boy, or better yet, did the dirty deed and used the portion of her body referred to as “down there.”

Out also went the twins who by this time had finished throwing pitchforks and ice choppers at one another, but who had graduated to nasty, slime-ridden comments, of “I’m not sitting in the car, next to Esther,” or she, of the famous Hebrew Queen’s name, ran away from the Randall G. Morris Elementary black tarred school yard before Liz could cream her, she ran blocks and darted through the back door of the twelve- room house on Fernwood Road, in West Roxbury, and double locked the old brass locks against an avenging twin.

Not quite like the caves and battles of Beowulf and Grendel, but darn, didn’t Liz thrust her fist through a small paned window and reach down and unlock both locks and burst in and pin the curled up Esther into the coat rack of old winter coats and jackets?

And then that twin and her queen-named counterpart would, miraculously at twenty-one, be kind to one another. The catalyst for such kindness was a brain stem injury on behalf of our sports figure, Liz, of the mighty fist, which rendered her, well let’s just say, “Rendered her.” From those days of miraculous recovery, a mother had died, the father remarried, the sister gone and married; the brother disappearing and last heard was a used car salesman. We proceeded to fill the pages of our lives and we would always help each other out in a crisis. One day of cumulus clouds in Caldwell, Idaho, she passed on, at age 68 of cancer. The first bracket of the hyphenated, “tell-the-twins,” passed, piercing the body’s shell, her soul going on, leaving husks of giant blades of a sad, sad life, but at peace and loving her boys, one who would marry a pure soul and produce golden children, but that is another story.

The story is now 7-8 years later, I, Esther, who was born twelve minutes later, am approaching that demarcation known as “Full of pages of life,” of skin like parchment paper, but also of still ever sturdy hips.

And so this has turned out to be a prose poem, for what does the poet do? They pierce the state of the mundane and rise to astonishment as words from an unseen ocean spill and spill out onto the earth of one’s mind.

imagesCA9U2AM5Dancing the Tunes

I am a woman of rich inner means, of hips which widen, and of feet which grow clumpier as the years go by.  The word “dance” does not call to me as it did in my younger years.

At twelve, my twin Liz climbed out of a tree, swung into the back door of our twelve- room house, and ran up stairs to our bedroom.  We shared.  She drew a line down the middle of the room.  No crossing.  Twins are like that.  But on Friday nights at 7.30, all the twelve year olds in our town dressed in either suits for the boys or dresses, stockings and shiny patent leather shoes for the girls.

Harry Raymond’s Dancing School, Friday night sessions ,were held weekly in a sagging huge yellow house with white trim on Centre Street in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, near the Shawmut Bank.  My father or mother drove us, and we sat in the back seat feeling like victims in a Black Mariah, wheels silently thwopping towards Harry’s.

Dressing for Harry’s was weekly penance.  Red silky type dresses; made by my mother, with tiny cloth buttons and Peter Pan Collars.  Under the dresses, the dreaded undershirt, and down further the garter belts which were like magnets to the seamed beige stockings we reluctantly hauled over our young girl thighs.

This was a mournful time for us; a time we didn’t fight, too locked into the mutual tragedy of garter belts – long floppy rubberized stretchy thin bands with hooks on the end.  The clips at the end were like a snake’s mouth – open, slide over nylon stocking, close, and clip, a metal slider of small proportions would pull the length of the strips tight.  Ugh.  A beginning rite of passage where I would learn women’s looks are for pleasing, pleasing men.  Am I okay?  All right, as in are my seams straight?  Liz and I were poised on the edge of some type of womanhood, reluctantly brought into the fold of How Do I Look, Does This Please?  Will He Like Me?

Once left off on the curb, we clumped up beat up wide stairs next to a rickety white banister and head towards the powder room.  Jannie Cleary with her curly red hair seemed unfazed.  I wondered if she wore a bra, maybe that’s why she seemed to carry an aura of confidence. “She likes boys,” Liz whispered to me with a downward twist of her mouth.

We filed out and sat on chairs in a huge circle around the edges of the ballroom.  We sat like cows watching Harry Raymond, a thin double for Liberace, glide across the floor, moving by each young girl saying, “Girls’ legs are meant to be closed.”  Then, each week he’d tap Liz’s ankles with his slim black and gold cane, and say, “Ladies do not sit with their legs apart,” because Liz always sat as if ready to spring upon a horse and ride off into some elusive West.

First we learned the Fox Trot, l clump, 2 clump, 3 clump, sway together 4.  During the week at Ruthie Anderson’s house, we danced the fox trot with each other.  Ruthie was Protestant, and we were Roman Catholic.  Our mothers were best friends – daring in a world of people who kept to their own.

Then we learned the waltz – l, 2, 3 – l, 2, 3, feet stomped instead of slid  on the old wooden floor as we stood like fledgling dancers auditioning for a musical.  Eventually we sweated through the waltz.

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Girls had to sit and wait to be asked to dance. The boys liked Liz; she was cute and sporty.  I sat there like a female Prince Valiant, a large red square of silk, my hair a dark clump of blunt and my bangs sort of straight, but not really.  My throat filled with doubt, as one by one, the seats around me emptied.  Finally after thinking I’ll just put my throat on a hook, tall, small-headed, round-chinned Holland Morgan stood silently before me.  His brown eyes questioned me, and his right eyebrow went up as in a “why not,” and we wordlessly cobbled our dancing feet together..  A fox trot.  Step, Step, Step and Step; learning to hoof in a measured square to a musical beat.

Then, as if Zeus threw a thunderbolt into my mouth, I heard myself motor mouthing about dogs, our once poodle who died.  Holland knew of this sad event.  I spoke droolingly of our beige non-altruistic pug and our copper-toned farting boxer.  Words poured out of my mouth like an overfill of chicklets spilling out..  I don’t remember his response.

Years later, when I was twenty, I met Holland again.  He was a friend of my step-brother.  I fell in love with him because of his writing.  He called me Cynthia one winter night as we walked over to Howard Johnson’s for coffee in Kenmore Square, and I was shattered.  He was at Dartmouth, and I worked down on State Street for attorneys.  I lived with roommates near the back of Fenway Park, near Kenmore Square.

I still dream of Kenmore Square because my mother died one icy day in our apartment on Bay State Road. Old issues maybe, or deep wounds, not all caught up by the therapist’s dustbuster.   Liz and I were seventeen.  We had a pug and a boxer, and Liz and I would walk them across Storrow Drive, and walk by the river, the wind whipping through us in the winter.  It was a good day when I realized, after Holland, after Bob, after blah, blah, I wanted what they had:  words, empowerment, not to be lost.  I was a dance in progress, and it’s taken a long time to become myself.  I no longer wear stockings with seams, although they are coming back, and I’m glad that time period is over.  Some people want to go back when times were good.  Good for whom, I might ask.  Then I think it’s all some sort of a dance – this life – a dance indeed.