When my mother heard the news we were moving south, she remembered pecan pralines and dirty rice, bayous and shrimp boats, and dark heavy drapes shut against stultifying heat.
She remembered nowhere to live along the Atchafalaya, U-boats staining beaches black with oil, and shipyards swarming with war workers. She remembered the tin roof of the side-yard, shotgun house where she lived with my father. She remembered war and Morgan City and no air conditioning. She was a western girl, raised in eastern Oregon, daughter of a newsman and a poet.
She remembered hurricane warnings, and instructions to fill the tub with water. She remembered reading, and forgetting, and bathing in the tub water. She remembered fevers and rickets, Oysters Bienville, and not to wear red. She remembered Huey P. Long, Leander Perez, and parlor doors sliding shut on women while men retired to their after-dinner smoke and conversations about politics, leaving women to conversations about babies. She remembered the thickness of boredom.
Her sister remembered the fifty-girl Girl Scout troop my mother led, and the boys club she worked to build and how she garnered the support of the local priest, and the local Mafia, and the company my father worked for constructing floating dry docks for the ships transporting all the goods of war.
Her sister remembered the political acumen it took to ensure that no credit went to her––not male, not Catholic, not southern. And I remember how the year we moved South she was diagnosed with the cancer that killed her.
Martha Jackson Kaplan is the recipient of the Zylpha Mapp Robinson International Poetry Award, an editor-in-chief award from Möbius, The Poetry Magazine, awards from the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, and has been nominated for a Pushcart. She’s published in The Night Heron Barks, Driftfish, 30 Days in August, and Unlikely Stories Mark V. See more about her at marthakaplanpoet.com.