Friday, May 11, 2012

The Ritual

I lay in bed and watched my cousin dress for school.
I was ten and she was two years older.
She was the piper for whom I had danced all my life.
When she was small and I was smaller, I sat on a step
And let her turn a key in my back ‘til I bled--
A sort of stigmata that showed the depth of my love for her.

The floor of her closet was a doll’s house
Filled with rooms of miniature furniture
Where we spent our days playing out doll-sized dramas,
The tops of our heads brushing against the hems of her dresses.

In the summers, we played hide-and-seek,
Or statues in my grandparents’ yard.
We played running games in the driveway,
And when we were tired we rested on the porch.
We sat on the wrought iron furniture and sang,
Or sat on the rise into which the garage was built and rested our backs
Against the brick wall with our heads just below the eaves,
And planned vacations that might have happened.

And then that day I lay in bed and watched her dress for school.
I knew it was some sort of ritual.
She put on a dress that was pretty and perfectly pressed
That looked like the dresses that mothers wore on TV.
She smoothed her hair to the back of her head into a neat French Roll
That looked like the hairdo our dolls had worn in the closet.
She slipped into her stockings.
She slipped into her loafers, which were perfect--
Gleaming cordovan loafers with a penny in the slot.
I knew it was some sort of ritual,
But I didn’t know it was the ritual for going away forever.

Later, one day in the car with my mother and grandmother in the front seat
And I in the back,
I said, “I hope that soon Lynn will want to play with me again.”
And my mother said, “I don’t think that will happen.”



  1. Those last lines are *so* poignant. "Nevermore." It occurs to me that there is ultimately some consolation for that kind of loss, because it really isn't ultimate--as we were discussing in the context of that post of mine about watching the children running, we're all growing toward something.

  2. It is one of those "childhood's end" kind of experiences. It was a little bit like, but much worse than, the day when I realized that my Father didn't get summer vacation like the rest of us. I asked my mother about it and when I really understood that he would NEVER get the summer off, it was almost too much to bear. Of course, it's almost too much for me to bear now. ;-) It really made me not want to grow up.