For Mary Lou: How to Care for a Troubled Household

1.  Put on your shirtdress, knee-high hose and loafers. Cover your head with a plastic rain bonnet. The bus ride from your home to theirs is long.

2.  Upon arriving, shoo the cats out of the house. The five-year-old girl will tug at your dress; keep her behind you, casually checking each room to make sure the mother hasn’t committed suicide.

3.  Teach the girl to tie her shoes. Tell the bunny story. Yes, that one: make a rabbit ear, chase it around the tree, dive into the hole.

4.  Unfold the ironing board. Sprinkle the father’s shirts with water, roll them up. Unroll and iron. You and the little girl sing with the Supremes on the radio; the iron cackles and spits.

5.  Sweep, wash the windows, do dishes, dust, wax.

6.  If the father has disappeared, you are in charge. The mother is locked in her room; children must be fed. You won’t get paid for the extra hours, but Lord Jesus will know.

7.  Keep an eye on the eldest son, the one who has brain troubles. If he is outdoors alone, holler out the back porch, ring the triangle. Bullies are in the fields, waiting.

8.  Count the children; there should be five. Start them on homework; put the little one to bed.

9.  Take the bus home to your lonely son and liquored husband.

10.  Sing “Try Me One More Time” in your sleep. Angels hover and kiss your temples. You are loved.

 

- Meg Galipault's publishing experience includes serving as managing editor of the Kenyon Review and executive editor of dialogue: voicing the arts, a nonprofit magazine covering the visual arts in the Midwest. She is a contributing editor for yeah write and has a blog called Pigspittle Ohio. Meg earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University. She lives with her husband and cats in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

You can find Meg's companion essay to this piece over on our noteworthy blog, here.

Sunday Biscuits

Winter mornings when frost etched my bedroom window and icicles dangled outside, I snuggled under my thick warm blankets waiting for the call to get ready for school.  But on Sunday mornings, the whispered songs of women longing for love, playing on mamma's stereo, nudged me from my child’s dream. 


Awake, I’d slip from my bed and wander into the living room. It was warm from the kitchen where the biscuits mamma made every Sunday were baking. Sometimes I’d get up in time to catch her sifting the dry ingredients made of flour, baking powder, and salt then shaping them into a volcano-like funnel in which she blended with her hands the Crisco, and next stirred the right amount of buttermilk to the dough. Then she’d roll the dough out on a floured board and cut out the biscuits using a tea-cup. Her biscuits puffy light and delicately flavored.

photograph by  Asha Rajan

photograph by Asha Rajan


I’m sitting here in my home sipping coffee waiting for my biscuits to bake. I’ve modernized her recipe: Sunflower seed oil—a healthy substitute for Crisco, and yogurt—because it’s easy to find in stores—for the buttermilk.  These moist ingredients lead to a drop biscuit. It’s not as magical and less work. But the biscuits are puffy and it approximates the flavor I remember. On the radio, Sunday’s Jazz DJ celebrates Billie Holiday’s birthday and plays three versions of “Fine and Mellow.” I am mother and child.

 

- Leslie Brown grew-up in a close knit working class family in Detroit and now lives in Virginia.  Where many playmates went south during the summer, she spent many fondly remembered weeks at her grandparent’s apartment near Hastings Street before the area was urban renewed. She retired from work as a librarian, working in public as well as university libraries. She enjoyed work helping students discover literature and information. She was an editor for American University Graduate magazine where she received and MFA in creative Writing. Since retiring, she has explored various writing forms, multi-media formats. She created a video imagining the black migrant’s experience, "Detroit Great Migration Impressions.” 

Making a Party Playlist

It can't be one of your favorites. You'll just get mad when they talk over the music. 

Put the records in order at the front of your rack. If someone wants to feel useful by queuing up the next one, let him. When he flips through the back sections, reach in and pull one out. Have you heard this? The trumpet player's the same as here. Waggle a finger at the turntable. Smile. Offer to accompany the helper to find a refreshment.  

The B sides will be slower. That's good. Let a particularly slow B side lead into another B side, not an A. Make sure nobody's yawning or sighing. 

Prop up the jacket; lean it against the turntable's lid, and watch for when people linger to read it. Sometimes, when someone needs a pal, the record player's their parking spot. 

"A good record collection was his pride and joy: insured, he confided, for more than his modest home."

"A good record collection was his pride and joy: insured, he confided, for more than his modest home."

A familiar song or three spread out over the evening is nice. It gets them talking: I didn't know they did this one, too! Is this the same group? But any more and it's a singalong. That kills the conversation. The music is not a guest. 

When it's time to put out the coffee, the music will tell you so. Send people off feeling warm, but don't let the record make invitations for you. 

- Stefanie Le Jeunesse