Bird-Wilson, Lisa, “Probably Ruby” (Hogarth 2020).

She felt wild with wanting them to know all the things over-shadowed by that one thing. The imperative of a mother is to be a ‘good’ mother. The bad loomed so large and ugly while the good always receded, shyly into its own room. Never taking up the same space, never equal. Never a one-for-one trade; more like a thousand good for one bad.

Ruby thought of all the things not accounted for: carefully keeping the soap out of their eyes, building forts from couch cushions, clean clothes and hair and faces, saying no to cookies, yes to cookies, medicine, listening to their drams, laughing instead of crying, make-believe, pawning stuff to go bowling, balloons on every birthday, talking when more word threatened to break her, sitting on their beds until they slept, waking up each morning, believing they were all headed for something better, returning home each time she left, suppressing a bubbling fury, remembering what it felt like to be a child and helpless, thinking she was honestly aspiring to spare them the same feelings, living the contradiction of excess and discipline.

And on the other side, frightened little boys and she didn’t know enough to talk when she should listen. The muttered responses, the excuses–I tried, I loved you, took care of you, I made a family for you–weren’t for them, they were for her. Her wishes, not theirs…

It wasn’t so much the question of what they inherited, but what they would do with it. Fury and love as big as the prairie sky, edgeless, boundless. What was ever inherited without grief? (218-219)

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