Nothing important happened in my hometown.
Well, nothing ever happened that anyone was willing to talk
about to Catholics, newcomers or children. Nor did I gather
useful information eaves dropping
at my parents’ parties from the top of the stairs
on Saturday nights when I was just a child.
Have you heard the one about two poops in a baby buggy?
The Dow looks a bit shaky, time to put. (Or was it call?)
The suit collection at Best & Company is very classic this fall.
Martini straight up or on the rocks?
The Colored are getting closer.
It nothing you could put in your pipe and smoke—
Two hearts, three clubs, I pass.

As I got older, Italians moved in.
On our annual tour to see our neighbors’ Christmas lights,
we came upon one yard with masses
of multicolored bulbs strung out
across the roof like guy wires from a circus tent.
Blinking, twinkling lights ran from the eaves in all directions
with red-nosed reindeer everywhere. A giant, lit-up
Santa sat smack in the middle of the yard.
Will you look at that! Mother exclaimed.
So garish! Must be Italians. I countered,
Well, you can’t be sure just because of what’s on their lawn.
She had the perfect reply. Oh no? Well, look over there,
isn’t that the Virgin Mary?

As Congregationalists or Episcopalians, we took it
as our religious obligation to be rational in my home town.
Who then would spend money to buy a Cadillac
when Lincolns were so much more tasteful?
In mys enior year my boyfriend Jack Cuozzo (be careful,
they are so hot-blooded) created the most lasting incident
when his taste was called into question.
Jack came to school wearing a pink, buttoned-down shirt.
Mr. Black, the principal sent him home and posted signs
on the trophy cases on every floor which read:
Male students are expected to dress appropriately.
No pink is permitted!

The next day almost to a person, our class showed up
wearing something pink and Dr. Cuozzo called
the principal and brought in his attorney,
so Jack was back. Mr. Black watched helplessly
at graduation as we walked in, the class of 1955,
flourishing a banner fashioned in pink and black.
Some years later we heard he called us
the worst class to graduate from Glen Ridge High School.
By now I think they’ve altered that opinion
since my hometown has become famous for the high school jocks
who raped the neighborhood retarded girl
with a broom handle and most of the town thought,
or so I’ve heard, it was a scandal and a shame those boys
had to do some time in prison when the parents were willing
to pay the girl’s doctor bills. Wasn’t it best just not to talk about it?
My God, these boys were college bound!

Not many residents were very interested in giving information
to reporters or willing to search out a wider point of view.
I wonder what my parents would have thought
about this incident, but they are both dead,
and I never said anything to them, anyhow,
before they died, about what I learned sitting
at the top of the stairs on Saturday nights
when I was just a child.

Published in Whistling Girls and Cackling Hens, Sandra Larson, Pudding House Chapbook Series, 2003