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Lillian of the Dark Glasses

by Phyllis Reilly

My mother was Evening in Paris, a gold compact with a shattered mirror, the soft face of

the moon.  She wore faux pearl jewelry in colors that no oyster created.   An ex-chorus girl

dancing in the living room singing “Down among the sheltering palms” in her best

Ethel Merman imitation, as if the palm trees could shelter her from the painful reality of

her life.


My mother was a brocade dress hung in a closet cluttered with second hand depression,

her make up a bit stagey for a Flatbush Avenue tenement.  A harlequin held prisoner

on the fourth floor of my childhood.  She was a porcelain demon that never slept.

A night watchman in a pink nightgown, moving through our apartment like a spirit

Goddess steeped in madness, obsessively checking the door to make sure it was locked,

Carefully stepping over the loose floorboards, to protect us from an imaginary intruder.


My mother was a predatory bird with raisin colored eyes and white gloved wings.

Flying from Welfare office to Kings County clinic to become a number in a system,

where  poverty sits on hard backed benches waiting and waiting to be called.

She was the oilcloth that protected our kitchen table from hunger.   A champion of

“on the cuff” credit that provided food for us, when nothing but Mustard was left

standing in the ice box, and the evaporated milk, had evaporated.


My mother was a liar, who would say anything to get what we needed.  Made up

deceptions that she came to believe were true, as long as the end result was achieved.

An urban farmer who milked the system, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul, Welfare,

medical care, summer camps, Fresh Air fund families. She did everything to keep me

healthy, safe and away from the clutches of my alcoholic father. A brave warrior who

stood up to his abuse while fear ate away her hope.  The dark glasses hiding the defeat that

showed in her eyes. She wore them day and night.  


Next to her bed, a nightstand drawer filled with those glasses.  She kept every pair.

A bizarre history in an array of frames I remember.  Like treasured jewels I

saved them.  A legacy left by a woman who was braver than I will ever be.

When she died, the only photo I found was a picture of her sitting on a porch chair.

She is wearing a purple dress and Rhinestone dark glasses that shine in the sunlight.   

Her arms wrapped around herself, in an embrace, she never gave to me.

About the Author

Phyllis Reilly, known affectionately as the "Grandma Moses of writing," is a 77 year old writer who lives with her husband and cat. Her recent publications include:

Flash Fiction Magazine: 2018 May edition 
Brevity Magazine: 2018 May 
Ponder Review: 2018 June Edition Volume 2 Issue 1 
PIF Magazine July 2018 Edition 
Passager Journal 2019 Winter Issue 
Cottagebytheroad Jan. 2019 

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