fiction

A Girl You Could Not Say No To

marble stepsAfter a long day at the steel mill, her father would come home to a second floor walk-up apartment rented in one of Baltimore’s narrow row homes, the ones with the famous white marble steps. In the hallway at the bottom of the dark stairs, looking up, dirty and exhausted, he saw his daughter Rose. She was his first-born and even won a contest as Baltimore’s most beautiful baby. In an ecru colored crocheted dress, hand-made by the beloved grandmother whose name she shared, three-year-old Rose stood at the top of the steps. With the setting sun backlighting shirley templeher Shirley Temple curls and cute, pudgy frame, Rose would sing his favorite song. The effect was as if the whole world disappeared, it made him happy and soothed his tired soul. I believe this sweet serenade performed daily, gave work and home meaning. She was his joy in a tough life of working 12-hour days and struggling to support his family in the mid 1920’s.  How could he ever say no to her? He never did, even when he should have. This memory stayed with him as fond memories do for all of us.  Early, sweet and endearing memories stay fixed in a parent’s mind no matter how old your child becomes.  You see them that way checker cabforever they are so cute that you will love them the rest of your life and pardon their foibles. That is why she had a difficult marriage. At 61, the age when she died, Rose was still getting an allowance.When she and her mother Helen would have a fight, to get back at her mother, Rose refused to visit to collect the money. Helen would sendit in a cab. She was just a girl you could not, but should have said no to.  

I can hear my mother from the heavens saying “tell the truth, but not about me.”  “Do you love me?”  Yes, I do mom but I understand your life and sometimes I do not like you, but always will love you very, very much. I find that parent-child is the most complex relationship. For me it seems unnatural to think, or speak ill of one’s mother.  I cannot speak for anyone else but me, so please understand, and if need be, forgive.

Wayne Brokke is a former restauranteur, raconteur, TV chef, and cookbook author (I Can Cook, You Can Cook). He can also drink more than most other humans.

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