Author: Cheri Paris Edwards
•4:47 AM
Goodnight, Aunt Tom

Aunt Tom's couch reigned majestic.
It's kingdom a small, square living room.
It's vinyl skin stuck to my legs when I
sat on it. “Don’t touch me!” the slick cushions
seemed to warn and I didn’t want to.

Mama says, “My mother and your Aunt Ida
and Aunt Tom were good with money. They
bought homes with money they earned
cleaning houses for white folks.” I knew
where Aunt Tom worked. I went along
a time or two. I remember long, bumpy
rides on the city bus to places where
houses loomed large. Deep green lawns
rolled out long, like lush carpeting for
walking on without shoes. I can't recall
the “Miss whoever or other” the work was
done for, but once there was a toy poodle
who yapped at my feet.

It was dark when we returned to
Aunt Tom's house on the corner of
Paris Avenue in Indianapolis, Indiana
with the tiny bathroom in the basement
and the small side tables crowded with
colored ceramic figurines and the
gold brocade couch covered in plastic.
“Don’t touch,” her house warned.
And, I didn’t, even when I wanted to.

Later, I grew saggy-lidded, watching
the orange tip ebb and glow like a
familiar nighttime lullaby. Nicotine dark
fingertips pressed the filter-less butt
into a glass ashtray. With a smooth rustle
she slid between white sheets stretched
taut on the twin bed next to mine.
“Good night, Cher-Cher,” she’d whisper.
I don’t remember that she touched me.


©Cheri Paris Edwards 2007
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4 comments:

On 5:37 PM , John Guzlowski said...

Hi, Cheri, thanks for posting this poem.

My mom was a cleaning lady too and a person who kept plastic on her couch.

Your poem brought a lot of her back to me.

 
On 11:02 AM , cheri said...

Thank you for sharing about your mother, Dr. G.! I didn't understand the coverings then, but now I do. It was the price paid in jobs such as these that made those things so precious.

Cheri

 
On 4:37 PM , John Guzlowski said...

Cheri,

And that couch would have to last forever.

My parents bought that plastic covered couch in 1960. When they moved to Arizona in 1991, they took the plastic off (yellow and stiff by then) and sold that couch.

Nothing was wasted, everything was used carefully so that it would last forever.

When my parents moved, they gave me stuff that they had had since 1951 when they came to America.

And there I was looking at it and wondering what the heck some of that stuff was and what was I going to do with it.

john

 
On 6:55 PM , cheri said...

Nothing like young people nowadays, huh? Items like Ipods, Game Consoles and even cars are like toys to kids today. Easy come, easy go. Yet some paid such a steep price for what the young sometimes take for granted.

Still have the furniture? Or just keep momentos to remind you of them?