The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I asked my mom, Mary, to tell me a story about her mom, June. She told me this. My grandmother was a tough cookie, and wasn't afraid to tell it like it is.

June follows quietly behind her sister as they make their way home from school, swaying from side to side as she hums a tune in her head. Summer is getting closer and the air is warm and sweet with the smell of freshly blooming flowers.

She hears her sister calling her to hurry up, but something else has caught her eye. On the corner of their street, a girl from her neighborhood, Barbara, and her friend Nancy are standing together, and they’re looking over at her. June raises an eyebrow but thinks nothing of it as she continues on down the street, head tipped up to the sun.

“Did you know that that’s my old dress?” Barbara is asking Nancy, tilting her head towards June as she gets closer. “I didn’t want it anymore, so momma gave it to her. You know, since she hasn’t had new clothes since fourth year.”

June feels her face burn. Barbara’s mother had been kind enough to hand down some of her daughter’s old clothes to June and her sister, since their family can’t afford anything new. It’s hard enough trying to keep food on the table for a family of six Irish immigrants. If only Barbara were as nice as her mother.

June decides that she won’t let Barbara see that her words have hurt her and takes a more tactful approach. “Yes,” June says, “Thank you again. I really like the color.”

Barbara, annoyed that her insults haven’t stuck, aims another jab at June with an accompanying flick of her hair. “Well, I think it looks positively stupid on you, and I’ve decided I want it back.”

Clearly expecting her to disagree, a triumphant grin spreads over Barbara’s face as if she’s made the joke of the century. June, annoyed and refusing to put up with Barbara’s taunting, drops her books to the ground with a slapping sound. She reaches up to the side and pulls the tiny zipper of the dress down, as Barbara looks on in horror. Unperturbed and determined, June pulls off the honeysuckle cotton dress and launches it at Barbara, who lets it flutter to the ground with a shocked expression.

Left clad in only her slip, June picks up her books and grins, sauntering past the two girls as she continues on home.

It’s warm out, anyway.

Tough Cookie

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When my grandmother was a kid, during the 1950s
Pennsylvania

I asked my mom, Mary, to tell me a story about her mom, June. She told me this. My grandmother was a tough cookie, and wasn't afraid to tell it like it is.

Decade: 1950s
Rating:
Recorded by kristina damico on April 27, 2020
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