the clothes were folded so neatly and wrapped up,
arranged by colors and by seasons and smelling of lavender.
The doors of her armoire rolled open and closed smoothly,
constructed for her by a cabinet maker who wished
to marry her after my grandfather left.
I couldn’t imagine my grandmother then as someone
who might have had a lover or a broken heart.
She was the keeper of the sand shovels
and the maker of café au lait –
I never knew her as the brunette she was but as grey gone blonde and grey again.
She was older than I could see myself becoming, older than I could envision my mother growing
and my mother seemed old to me then, so solidly my mother, the keeper of me.
There was a turn table in the tiny apartment and one record that we played
again and again in the summers, the soundtrack to Love Story.
For me it was never anyone else’s story but the one that might be mine, and in the
selfish spring of my life, in my grandmother’s borrowed pajamas, handkerchief thin,
I never thought of the women listening too with their own nostalgia or regret.
Is it a secret that we keep, getting old, that we hand over ever so gently, verse by verse?
The young are strong but even so they can only bear so much.
My own closet now, how neat it is, and in the scented stacks of clothes
I can find my grandmother again.
And my mother, so solidly my mother, is still the keeper of me
grey-haired as she is, and I am becoming.
The doors are rolling open and closed.
There are love stories, not my own.
Sing them to me, I am listening.
Christine Kouwenhoven lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband and three kids. She works as Communications Director at Baltimore School for the Arts, a public arts high school. Christine has an M.A. from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. She shares poems and reflections regularly on her blog poempost.wordpress.com. Recently she’s had essays published by The Mid, Grown & Flown and the Baltimore Fishbowl and poems in MAW and The Poetry Box.