My Mom Used To Be Something.
At the end of the dark hallway
where the dimly lit bulb barely cast
a glow over the sad doors of our rooms,
it hung in the closet on a wire hanger,
in the corner, the shape
of an indifferent woman,
that pink Kmart smock
mom got when she used to be
a stock girl.
I was too young to remember
when she worked there
but my older brother did,
and as he looked into the sky
he told about it,
like speaking of the dead.
I imagine each day
she buttoned up that smock,
walked up Blackstone to Kmart,
dirty blonde hair in a cute bob,
her green eyes sparkling maybe
with the taste of independence.
Maybe she got a glimpse
of what it could be like
just being a working girl, early 20s,
not having to go home to a man,
like That Girl!
Kmart paid in cash,
the manager counting
into her palm, two 20s,
a ten, four ones, for a full work week,
a few coins she dropped in the smock
pocket. When she came home
she hung the uniform on a chair
and cooked dinner for my father,
who came home throwing hard hat
and metal lunch box on the couch.
I imagine her stirring the pot, thinking
I hope he don’t remember
and ask, Did you get paid today?
I wish I would have known her then,
but all I remember is the uniform,
hanging in the closet, proof
she used to work there,
and anytime we walked into the giant
sliding glass doors of the store
following father, following mother,
begging for a blue Icee, sometimes
my brother, sometimes my sister
would say, Mom used to work here!
I pictured her behind the counter
serving those submarine sandwiches
with little strings of slimy onions,
flattened pickles and shredded iceberg
lettuce we loved to eat. I saw her
stocking the candy aisle,
and I wished she still worked there,
so she could grab a few Pay Days for us,
take them home in her smock pocket
and hand them out to us
like a man opening his wallet
at the county fair.
Some days when I was alone
in the house I would open
the closet, take down her smock,
and put it on, imagining I worked at Kmart,
and nothing could be better,
than getting paid in cold,
hard cash. I was proud of my mother,
but a version of her I didn’t know,
because she didn't work there anymore.
She used to really be something.