buttons and bows and ties to the nose

she didn’t help us dress up
or put on make up

at all
as in not one tiny bit
when we were kids
she’d put curlers in our hair
that’s about the most, ever

i used to think love was diminished

until i saw a mom
take her daughter around
to the college parties
so that the mom could drink beer
while the daughter flirted with
the boys …

she wanted to escape, that daughter
like a slave held against her will
a thing of value

to be traded … to be traded.

so that was the moment when i became
my grandmother’s friend
the moment that i realized love takes
all kinds of forms

is hidden sometimes
in things people DON’T do

********

that was when she and i
began to talk for hours over the phone

she probably thought it was all the
education i got at school….opening
me up to long conversations

but it was that mom
taking her daughter from party to party
known by all the college kids as the
worst parent ever

it was realizing what i had
a love that wasn’t buttons and bows
but was so much more

facades don’t fly in our family
in our family
love is not owing someone
for dressing you up just
like them — love was being in debt
for how much they saw of the real you

i think of that
when i notice girls dressed up
by doting mothers

the thing i used to be jealous about
until i changed my mind
while watching a mom trade on the beauty
of her daughter
as she tipped
the red cups of foamed paradise
into her gullet

i think how much more i was loved
or at least tended … held as a value
above any price
in this universe and out

and i weep for the loss of a parent’s parent
who really didn’t want to be a mom, again
but did it anyway
in HER own way
a grandma that couldn’t give two farts about frills and lace
down to earth
salt of the earth

there were much more important things to do
the world is full of hardship, yours only a
small part

beauty doesn’t last
just don’t be late for supper

and wipe your feet when you come into the house
but stop slamming that door, for God sakes!

and the thing is, it was beauty
a different kind of beauty
a different set of buttons and bows
we were given the kind
you can’t trade

can only smile at how life is funny
so funny above it all

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