My mother told stories before we went to sleep,
nothing was ever written down, but she loved
to tell about when she was young. We would gather
at her feet to listen to tales from her childhood.
There was the time her uncle saw her eating
an orange peel she picked off the floor.
She was given a dozen oranges,
and told to eat the peels off each one.
She never liked oranges after that,
and we never ate things that fell on the ground.
One incident made her sad when she tricked
her grandfather, who was blind. She took the string
that lead him to the outhouse and tied it to the barn door.
She had to clean his chamber pot for a week.
We realized it wasn't nice to play practical jokes
and were glad we had indoor plumbing.
She remembered summers on the open range
where she whistled to bring in the cows
and handled horses and cattle with ease.
We galloped around on our wooden sticks,
herding the chickens into their coops.
We blew spittle until we learned to whistle.
My favorite was the one about the rickety buckboard
she rode to school and how dad was the best basketball
player in fifth grade. She blushed anytime he looked at her
but waited to marry him until after the war.
He looked so handsome in his Coast Guard blues.
We learned there was never a right time to fall in love.
I don’t know when she stopped telling stories.
Some of the younger kids don’t remember them at all.
Then one day she was gone but her stories linger on
of that time, long ago, in the farmlands of New Mexico.