Banquet, 1951

Mom and Dad at banquet 1951

Mom and Dad, before they were married. The note on the picture says “Banquet, 1951.” I remember that this is the dress Mom wore to her engagement party—or maybe it was the dress she was wearing when my Dad asked her to marry him? How am I to know, now? All of those open eyes in the photo, eight of them, six looking right at the camera. Mom’s two focused on someone or something else, seemingly unaware of the table photographer. Likely, she was extracting happiness from a neighboring table, savoring it like a rare but coveted Brandy Alexander. The dress was a favorite of hers—we’d talk about its origins, a department store on 69th Street; Strawbridges, maybe?—and when I pull it out from the back of her closet, sixty-three years after this photo was taken, the black velvet is still soft, the straps are tied in tight, loopy bows. All that’s missing is the channel-set diamondesque necklace, Mom’s full, easy smile, the slow slope of her back, the beginning of a gentle curve that would groove and steepen into a deep ‘C.’ What purse did you use that night? Did Dad tell you that you looked beautiful? Did he kiss you? What did he smell like? What perfume did you wear? What did you have for dessert? The questions. The questions are what kill me. The answers live off-frame, wherever Mom is looking in that moment.

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About Michele Finn Johnson

Michele Finn Johnson’s stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, DIAGRAM, The Adroit Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction won an AWP Intro Journals Project Award. Michele lives in Tucson. More at michelefinnjohnson.com; @m_finn_johnson.
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