Family Dinners: Salt and Pepper
The wooden scalloped valance
above the kitchen window in the old house
I remember, and that the window itself
framed only the white stucco wall
of the house next door. Sun through it.
Grudgingly scrubbing my little sister’s
baby formula from the ridges in the chrome trim
rimming the grey marble Formica. What
I can’t recollect is them together
at that table. Just my mother moving
from counter to stove to fridge, conveying
tuna casseroles and meatloaf, spaghetti
and meatballs. My father rumbling at her
from his chair to sit down and eat.
The valence of that orbit. What combining
power, attraction, kept them together
those years bringing us up? Bringing us
to our own lives, marriages, which we planned
on being perfect, the scratchy edges of their
irritable connection all sanded smooth.
Once we were done growing, they became our
faintly comic twosome, fitting into each others’
modest idiosyncrasies as neatly
as the paired cat and dog interlocked
in close embrace, the Dutch boy and girl,
their pouty lips never and always touching.
I know what keeps them, now. Now
my father pulls up a chair to empty
the dishwasher after it’s done. Goes down
to do the laundry, taking a breather
between folds, pulling each heavy
woolen sock onto its stretcher.
My mother spoons borsht into his bowl,
tenders it to the table. He looks up,
pats at her hand, it’s so good, betraying
what they feel still. Just the two
of them, together, eating dinner.
* * *
Originally published in Maisonneuve, Issue 35, March, 2010.
* * *
Rhea Tregebov’s seventh collection of poetry will be published in Fall 2012 by Signal Editions, Véhicule Press. Her poetry has received a number of literary prizes, including the Pat Lowther Award, the Prairie Schooner Readers’ Choice Award, and the Malahat Review Long Poem Award. She is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at UBC.