October 15, 2019

The Only Child

They were older than the other parents, 

gray and pale, with consonants that gargled
when they said come in.

They played Beethoven sonatas on their hi-fi
and taught us how to sing the “Ode to Joy.”  

They didn’t tell us not to color on the table
or be careful not to spill the milk
when elbows zigzagged outside lines.

The mother baked fresh strudel when I played there
and the father watched us nibble them
with proud brown eyes.

Their daughter’s bed was canopied with ruffles —
at its foot a flounced pink vanity
with lipstick samples left by Fuller Brush.

They let her feed her doll real food
in her old high chair,
and write blue numbers on its arm
to show that it belonged to her —
like they did.

Paula Rudnick is a former television writer and producer who has spent the past 30 years as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations.