Tax season, 1987

Me with my mouse picture May 1987
At the talent festival with my mouse picture, May 1987

 

Right after Christmas I always feel sad

because Mommy’s tax season hours begin in January.

Every year I ask her, because I forget—

“How many hours per week will you work?”

“Eighty to one hundred,” she says.

“What’s normal for most people?”  I ask.

She sighs—“Forty.  But remember

once the birds are singing again

and the flowers are blooming

spring will be here

and tax season will be over.”

Spring seems so very far away on winter mornings

when she leaves hours before sunrise.

We get up to kiss her goodbye

and watch her taillights until they turn onto the highway

then we go back to bed for a little while.

I never sleep well knowing we’re alone.

We dress ourselves, we feed ourselves

and get ourselves on the bus.

After school we always go to the S family’s house.

Sometimes we eat dinner with them

and sometimes with Grandpa and Grandma.

Mommy picks us up right before bedtime

and only enough time is left

to change clothes, brush teeth, and go to sleep.

After she tucks us in

the wanting rises up strong inside me.

On Saturdays we sit at her office

while she works, and we can’t bother her.

The dark brown walls with fluorescent lights

feel like a cave prison.  She gives us a few dollars

to spend at the craft store next door

or across the street at Woolworth’s in the plaza

where we buy stickers, candy, barrettes,

or decorations for our Barbie house.

That’s fun for a little while

but we aren’t allowed to say we’re bored.

We try hard not to complain, even to each other.

Sometimes she gives us money to swim at the bubble

where it’s steamy and warm like a greenhouse

and that’s okay until I see

other mommies and daddies swimming with their kids

and I miss her again.

Every morning I look for yellow buds on forsythia bushes

and I listen for the happy bird songs

but it’s still grey and quiet.

A few nights ago Mommy’s friend Miss H

picked us up from the S family’s house.

She talked to us so friendly and cooked us dinner,

but I just couldn’t be good anymore.

She asked me to draw another mouse picture

like the one of mine she hung on her wall

but I didn’t even feel like drawing.

When she left the room

and while Sister watched TV

I crawled under the dining table

and sat in the dark, leaning my head

against the chair legs.

A weight so heavy inside sat on my chest

and chunks of my heart broke loose

like ice falling into the ocean.

Miss H found me but I couldn’t move.

I let the tears stream down my face and neck

and didn’t wipe them away.

She left me there and called Mommy.

When Mommy came I didn’t want her to talk

a long time with Miss H like usual.

I wanted to kick and scream

like a two-year-old in a tantrum

but I didn’t have the energy.

I knew it was rude

and I knew I’d be punished

but I said, “I want to go home NOW.”

For once, we left right away.

The next day Mommy called after school

and asked to talk to me.

I waited for her angry words

but she promised a picnic in the park

just for the three of us on April 16,

the day after taxes are due.

I know she will let me get whatever I want

from Dairy Queen that day.

I know I will never ever

not in a million years

work anywhere this much

when I grow up.

And I know it will take us

longer than one day

to come back together again.

 

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