After school, with teachers pressing us poor and ethnic kids
to have good manners, and then the streets’ threat
of snowballs or insults, home was sanctuary—Mother gone,
but in her place an apple pie, her special craft.

With a glass of milk I’d eat a thin piece, a thicker piece,
and then as much as I might dare; once I ate just less
than half a whole one. In the kitchen, warm with the yellow
sun, the milk and pie filled me up.

I’m not suggesting, because the memory is appealing, that
was a good way of growing up. The sweet, soft things of my childhood
made me sweet and soft and utterly defenseless till at 12,
after Phyllis called me Fatso, I starved myself thin.

What’s made me happiest all this week was my son, at 7,
announcing his favorite cereal is shredded wheat—no sugar,
just the grain, hard and crunchy, good for children to grow up
hard and healthy and fearless in the streets.


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