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Vo l . 7 N o . 1

Jennifer L. Smith

Joanna’s Child

But what makes you get a baby often starts with a kiss…Remember Joanna. --Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

At 14, I learned that I was Joanna’s baby. The realization was somewhere between sixth grade, maxi pads and sex education. I was different— not in the typical angst way, for I stayed out of trouble, in a small town where no one divorced, where everyone went to your church, or some church, where everyone wanted to know you, or at least, your business— I was an unwedded birth when good girls did not keep their babies.

Later, in my college years the questions would be more demanding: Do you know who he is? Wouldn’t you like to know? Aren’t you curious? I would lie and say no. Like all of the stones that were hurled at Joanna, I knew my mother had her scars. She would remind me often that she was a good mother (and to the best of her ability she was), It was her attempt to negate those who thought otherwise because she chose to break the rules. So, what “lessons” did Joanna share with her child? I don’t fully know her pain (or his name), aside from the assurances of her mothering, the glares and the asides. She never shared her wounds, and the wounds from the rocks that hit me never healed either.

I’m your mother and father, my mother would say, and I believed her. I told everyone I had no father, until I became older and realized the “oh” would be followed by the awkward nod, a shuffle of feet, or rattle of ice in a drinking cup, when I told them my parents had not married, nor had I had any contact with him. Eventually I caught on; it was a signal— we could no longer be friends. Puzzle No. 1

Shary Clough Suiter

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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