Nebraska Center for Writers

A DILLER, A DAUGHTER
by Trudy Lewis

A diller, a dollar,
A ten o'clock scholar
What makes you come so soon?
You used to come at ten o'clock,
And now you come at noon.
YOUR FIRST WORD was "ma," and ever since then you've been using it against me. Even those early sentences were ten-dollar tongue twisters out of the mouth of a little two-penny sprout — or so your dad always said. But then, he always favored you, being the youngest, and a girl at that. That's why I'm so surprised to get this bare engraved invitation in the mail — no note, no phone call, not even a photo of the prospective groom to give us some rough idea how our grandchildren might come out after all these years. Like you don't even want us involved. Don't want your mother planning a church-basement wedding shower or baking a chocolate groom's cake filled with the usual lucky family charms. Don't want your father walking you down the aisle with his poor sense of rhythm and his accelerating gout. I guess that's not the thing, out there in LA.
But no hard feelings, Ms Pade, if that's what you're still calling yourself these days. See, I'm sending you an album just like I did with the other kids, even though you must think it's a lame tradition — your old ma trying to paste up a scrapbook for every wedding. When Nelson finally gave in and married the little Ames girl, down the street, I put his old notes and doodles in a metal binder, and now he keeps it out in the shop as a conversation piece. Jim has his racing-car album in a row of cookbooks, on top of the microwave in that bachelor apartment where he's been living ever since the divorce. The fancy Korean dentist that Donnie hooked up with in Dallas is some crack housekeeper: she's got his cute cowboy organizer on the kiddie shelf along with the storybooks, to read to the kids when they get to be the right age. So you're the last, except for Aaron, who doesn't even have a fiancée yet, though, to tell the truth, he's tested the wheels on two or three. You can stuff this tasteful valentine number in a eucalyptus tree for all I care. It includes all the words that ever got written between us — something to remind you where you come from on your wedding day. And if this one's a little lighter than the others, you'll understand why.

Reprinted with permission
from The Atlantic Monthly, January 2001
Copyright © 2001
by Trudy Lewis


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