I don’t tell Mom what I’m thinking as I look around her dark, musty room. Throw things away, please. What she’s keeping is torn, faded, crumpled, dirty. Another metropolis of Styrofoam cups has risen beside her kitchen sink. Again, she’s stuffing empty cups into the love seat. Does she think they’re hidden? The second sister bought her a pack of Styrofoam cups from Walmart, thinking kindness might outsmart our mother, but the fresh ones are in the cupboard, out of sight, and maybe this is the problem?

Our Polish grandmother hoarded. Her basement was a treasure hunt for kids who don’t separate what’s finished from what’s valuable. Nina and I would dress in moth eaten hats and scarves, tarnished costume jewelry, set a table with chipped dishes, a tureen with a petunia pattern, a mismatched gravy bowl missing its handle. We’d dine on imaginary buttered toast points and drink fresh squeezed orange from cracked teacups like the Queen and Princess of England. Our mother always had a careful and specific eye. Colorful pillows on the sofa, tchotchkes clustered on the coffee table, stacks of books, her bow placed on her music standing, waiting. On our dinner plates would be an edible garnish, usually parsley. She dressed for dinner. A silky blouse, her hair pulled back, slim black pants. She didn’t wear jeans until her fifties. Out in the yard, Nina and I would practice gymnastics: back bridges, cartwheels, handstands, tricking gravity until Mom called us in to wash up. Now we worry that in her wheelchair, our mother never gets clean or washes her hair. To ask for help risks what she’s saved being mistaken for trash.

(Originally published on http://matterpress.com/journal/2020/03/ )

“Masquerade” – http://ninatempleart.com/collections/124222

Ink on cold pressed 300 lb. watercolor paper

30″ x 20″