Baby Miranda and I celebrate Betty's birthday in San Francisco, Dec 11, 1996.

Toddler Miranda and I celebrate Betty’s last birthday in
San Francisco, Dec 11, 1996.
~Photo by Rob~

Happy Birthday, Betty Jean…
born 63 years ago today…

My sister, Betty, loved poetry. This one is for her:

Yards scream for attention,
sending vines running up outside walls,
choking trees and fences.

Climbing trees, worn in spots from hide & seek hands,
shake off leaves with those memories, and water sprouts
rocket toward the sky.
Shrubs overflow blocking paths and views.

Taming the yard is good, robust work at the front of my mind,
Dirt and sweat reward, but it comes to an end.
The last pile is hauled away, the spot raked clean.
The last bale of pine straw spread around two new
Indian Hawthornes flanking the driveway where
Mama, Betty, Daddy and I pulled out to church
many a Sunday.

And now I have no choice but to go inside.

Rooms are more quiet, sedate, even though
they hold more noise.
Peeling wall paper whispers on its sag toward the floor.
Old, cracking paint clings silently like dandruff waiting
to be scratched off.

The walk is still soft on carpet in my old room,
where 45s used to spin and a plastic Singer sang,
sewing mini skirts and gaucho pants.

In the kitchen the creak of off-kilter cabinets is so slow it
doesn’t make a sound.
Heavy grease drips hang suspended from years and years of
fried fish and hoe cake conversations around the table.

The house is scrubbed clean and painted like new,
but seems sad, waiting for its next phase, a
new family to pump life into it again.

I walk through the fresh rooms hoping to be worthy
of the trust they put in me to find that
new family.

And as you might guess, the attic space is saved for last.
Dark, out of reach, needs a Devine friend for support,
holding the ladder along with many shared memories of this house.
She knows I’m hesitant to see what’s up there in the dark,
possibly something forgotten by the dead, and better left that way.

She waits patiently as I shine the light, look around,
relieved to only see dry, strong joists and fluffy, pink insulation.

I close the hatch, smiling and come down the ladder.
Then we laugh like those candy-coated kids who
long ago listened to 45s in the room down hall.

Holding Memories

Flora and Anita

Flora Devine and Anita on the porch of the home house in Albany, Nov. 2012.