The Mother of My Mother's Things

I stare around the table.

I wait for the same answer to come.

It was not the answer I expected,

But it was the answer my profession expected.

Mother.

A compliment.

The best compliment.

“A good mother.”

One blink and I’m sad

For them.

Those women,

All the women,

Who don’t know they could be more.

One breath and I’m sad

For myself.

Because I’m not one of those women

Maybe not even a woman

Because there won’t be anymore

Of me.

The chest.

I moved it,

Unaware

My father built it.

I emptied out the papers

Mostly never meant to be together.

It’s not my chest,

But it’s empty.

So I fill it.

For her.

Most things.

Old things.

Girls’ things.

Once given things.

Except for my mother’s chest

I place on an awkward

Slant inside my father’s chest.

I’m sorry, something so valued

Sits inside so unevenly.

Pearls and gold and links.

Names and initials.

My mother’s chest inside the chest my father made.

Neither one are really mine.

I lost the stories before I lost

Pearls and gold.

“What’s this?” a little voice asks.

“A jewelry box. Savta Elissa’s. My mom.”

I speak all the words my niece knows.

I’m not sure she knows the words

Any better than I know the stories.

“She’s died?”

“Yes,” I nod.

“My sister, Ori, died.” She opens the lid and slides her finger across the pieces

Her mother arranged the night before.

“I know. It’s sad when people die.”

On my lap rest my mother’s hands,

The ones that placed the bracelet

With my mother’s name

Around her mother’s wrist.

She closes the lid.

I breathe.

There is more space in my chest,

But it’s not empty.

I abandon the jewelry box on the floor

Alongside the unfinished imagined play.

“A mother.”

My niece returns to her story.

I turn back

Towards the closet

And the overflowing chest.

“A good mother.”

I will never be a mother

Of my mother’s things

If I don’t know

Where they go.

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