The Woman in the House

By Bridget Grieve-Carlson

At night, as a teenager,
I’d watch Fred and Ginger,
the dance team on the television.
This was in the days when Fred was considered the expert,
long before it ever occurred to anyone,
Even while we were watching,
Ginger was doing it all
backwards,
in heels.

One night my mother walked through the hallway
from the kitchen
to find me lying on the living room sofa,
subdued by the August heat.
There is so little time
between finishing the dishes and deciding to talk to me
that when she comes up and stands in front of me,
blocking the television
with her plump pregnant belly,
water drops still hang from her usually ragged fingernails,
giving them the appearance of long perfect nails.

It isn’t until years later that
I remember what she said to me that night.
You know love isn’t really like that,
she said, as she turned to Fred and Ginger.
But I wasn’t listening.
I loved anything perfect back then.
I loved the first few days after my mother got her hair done
and nothing she did would mess it.
And when she would dress for a party in a new, clean floral dress
and put on makeup,
and gone
were the runs in her nylons,
stains on her clothes,
and dark circles under her eyes.

I wasn’t listening that night.
I was marveling at her perfect fingernails
and the way the droplets of water that hung from them
glistened by the light of the television.
She was just my mother back then.
The woman in the house
who did everything,
while pregnant,
with kids in diapers.
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Bridget Grieve-Carlson is a mother of three children, a writer, and a para- educator in an autistic support classroom. She has published short stories in Central Pennsylvania Magazine and Storyteller. She has also written a novel which she hopes to publish in the near future.