KJ Hannah Greenberg
and Jewel Beth Davis

KJ Hannah Greenberg

My Small Skinny Self
By Jewel Beth Davis
Inspiration piece

A film-like scene plays in my mind repeatedly. I see my mother as she was then when I
was seven in our first home in Montclair, Quincy. Her hair is an unruly dark brown mop
with a lop of gray hanging over her forehead. My mother, Fran, is crying. She holds a
dishtowel and wrings it as she cries. My father, Bernie, is 6’3” and stocky. His hairline is
beginning to creep gradually backwards. He shops in the Big & Tall store in downtown
Boston. I’m frightened for my mother. My father’s voice is very big, booming. She is
begging my father for something. It is money. It’s always money.

My big father takes a step towards my mother. He stands, looming; she is sitting on the
gold brocade big chair in the living room near the front door and the kitchen. My older
twin brothers sit at the kitchen table pretending that none of this is happening. The
muscles of my father’s arm tense up and his arm pulls back a little. My heart pounds
hard and quickly. I’m afraid he is going to hit her though I’ve never seen him do so. He
does get angry and lose his temper often. He steps closer; I am to the left of them near
my Mother. I run between the two of them.

“Don’t hurt her,” I say. “Stop. Stop yelling. Stop making her cry.”

My mother grabs me and puts her arms around me to protect me. “Look what you’re
doing, Bernie. Stop. You’ll hurt Julie.” My father’s arm relaxes.

My parents fight much of the time. I don’t have many memories of them when they
aren’t fighting and shouting. This time, as with most times, it is about my father’s
complete control of the checkbook. He has plenty of money, my mother says, but she
doesn’t know where it’s going. She discovers much later that he has a girlfriend he is
supporting. My mother has to buy our clothes at the Bargain Center in Quincy Square,
not at Filene’s or Remick’s.

From the circle of my mother’s arms, I see my father’s face is a deep red. He grabs his
topcoat and stomps through the kitchen ignoring my brothers and out of the house to his
large Oldsmobile. The engine revs and the car peals out of the garage. My mother holds
onto me and makes an effort to stop crying.

I must have felt powerful that day, because I placed my small, skinny self between
these two warring adults. So angry that they couldn’t ever play nice. This had never
happened before and never again that I ever saw.


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