Partying with Aunts

on Passover, my father puts on a gray

flannel suit, mama wears taffeta with a gentile pleated

skirt & Doris Day hair — she says I don’t want

to stay long — he is silent,

Rachel is his sister –

listen, all his sisters will be there

he has memories, tumble-down humble tenement Jews

on Delancy Street among the pushcarts

single boy in a slurry of females.

We park our Buick convertible

shined turquoise with leather seats

take an elevator to the fifth floor

ring the doorbell — wait

in the hallway & Uncle Louis opens up —

bright light inside, thick cooking smells

chattering voices & Perry Como sings.

Shalom Louis says in his ghetto Yiddish accent, reaches out

to squeeze my mother

she turns stiff, we crowd in.

Hello finally, Aunt Rachel cries

Oh my god says Aunt Esther who hugs us in turn

my mother says give her a kiss.

Esther is all red mouth, she is the youngest sister.

You’re late shouts Aunt Rita who waves from across the room

flounced in fancy green, all powdery white bosom, her arm

around Uncle Joe who borrowed

five hundred dollars last year from my father

but never paid it back. Oy you are so big says

perfumed Aunt Fanny as she bends over to embrace me — Uncle

Howard behind her sweats in blue serge and looks bored. Welcome whoops Aunt

Frieda all smiles and teeth and dark wig. The cousins are sitting on the floor

watching Arthur Murray. We swallow deep

breaths of gefilter fish & matzoh ball soup & kasha & roast

beef & chicken giblets & gravy & potato kugel & noodle

kugel & challah bread till it’s time to eat — spill sweet

wine on white embroidered tablecloths, card tables stretched from

kitchen through living room all the way to a bedroom door.

I listen to the aunts laughing in shrill voices, they bustle

about in the cramped rooms serving food. Mama at the far end

from me flirts with Uncle Joe and Howard drinks too much.

My father looks happy.

About Karen To and Fro

Everything you didn't want to know about me!
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