Salad Days

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We lived at home, were always home for dinner.
We thought we dressed like women
when we peeled off the school uniforms and slid into
plaid kilts, blouses with Peter Pan collars and circle pins,
loafers, on Friday night, for a church hall dance.
We thought we knew everything, though we only
knew everything about the things we read in books
or heard on the bus, or the street. We read
magazines to learn how to flirt.
Being sophisticated meant smoking Benson and Hedges—
we wondered how old we’d have to be to drink at a cousin’ wedding.

Our mothers thought our world was crazy.
Too much Orbison and Presley, then in a whirr,
James Brown, the man in the orange cape, and
the Beatles, who made us scream, or the
subversive Dylan, who questioned us,
How does it feel, to be on your own?
–when our mothers wanted us safe—
Take the bus to school, be home on time.
No drinking, no smoking, study hard,
go to college. Find a nice boy. Get
married, stay in town. Our town, which
changed and burned, changed and burned again.

Some of us left, and those who
stayed didn’t always follow the playbook.
We are neither who we were when we were sixteen
nor are we different from who we were, inside,
even though we’ve tried like crazy to: speak up,
grow up, let go, not judge, relax, achieve, kick back,
question, breathe, believe, not believe—

Now we size ourselves up
against the dreams and goals and fantasies
we had as girls, the plans we spoke of,
the ones we hid. Back then, we didn’t say
It’s all good, but it is, all of it—
The paths and detours, all good, all worth
something, the living of it, the becoming,
never stepping into the same river twice.

 

Lynne Viti

Reprinted from A New Ulster magazine, Issue 35, December 2015

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