NDJ:4 Lynn Somerstein, MA

I Never Told My Mother that . . .

. . . very day my mother went down on her hands and knees with a stiff scrub brush and lots of soapy hot water and washed the yellow linoleum with red and blue spots that covered the kitchen floor. Then we would have lunch. I remember sitting with my mother, eating lunch at the table with a brown metal top. I didn’t tell her how much I loved eating alone with her.

On the table next to my seat there was a fish tank that looked like a giant brandy glass. I loved watching the little fish, shiny neons that swam about, looking on while we ate all our meals. My pet fish were entirely different than the flounders Grandma cut up, cooked and served at her fish store, called Thomas’ Fish and Chips. The whole neighborhood raved about Grandma’s cooking, but Mom never ate anything that came from the store.

Just as I was taking a bite of my sandwich my mother bumped the fish tank with her coffee cup and broke it. Fish spilled out across my plate, over the table and on to the floor, where they flopped about- looking now like Grandma’s flounders- until they were dead. My mother screamed and cursed those fish for making a watery mess on her clean floor, while I cried and begged her to save them.

I didn’t tell my mother how much I hated her; she already knew.

She did not know, or maybe did not want to know, that just the week before I had seen the red blood in the bathroom. I didn’t know the word miscarriage, but I was not “too young to understand” that another had baby died.

After lunch, I watched my Mother close her eyes and go to sleep, or make believe that she was sleeping. She didn’t care if I knew she was pretending, as long as I left her alone so she could dream she was someone else. She used to make believe she was Elizabeth Taylor, married to Mike Todd. I never told her that I knew that too.