The Days The Milkman Came


Pieces of me come from 1959. They would have to. I picked up the times in which I was born. Birthed and set to grow in soil of the South yet for a time, wandering under the wing of my parents. From Boston to the middle of the US. I have memories of the milk truck, as I walk my dogs around this village. At dusk. Dusty memories appear. I see only the blurry face of him, the milkman, we did not know his name. We, the children, but it came. Mana, all we’d need. These were the days of boundaries of want. It was all right there. There were sweaty glasses of iced tea and warm milk. And clearing one’s plate. And stories of children in Africa in want. And books on the bed after school, shiny and new. And sugar on grapefruit and grapefruit spoons. These were the days of walking to school.

Pieces of me come from watching the man step on the moon. They would have to. I picked up the times in which I was born and raised. Before the sleep-over, piles of giggly girls watching a giant leap for mankind, was it black and white, I stood in puddles of grief. In front of the screen, I know was white and black and a president was buried in plain view on that screen. Camelot, I may not have understood then. I do now. I picked up parts of the me I am from the life and death of then. Of a television showing Vietnam war footage while we tried to swallow our food. War and dinner. For a time. I know it was in color then, the camo and blood.

Later I would gather up the sweet smell of gardenias in June, skinned knees year round, stubbed toes worn as battle scars from play and Sunday’s at The Country Club after church. We sat in the same pew year after year. Politics in the family DNA. There were more than a few eyes on us. Always. They are a box of Crayola’s coloring in the lines of me. These memories. The roses that didn’t quite bloom. Seeing shadows through a louvered bedroom door. And riding horses, the real ones and the pretend.

I will walk my dogs in my new old village home. Where I will pick up memories of me. I am made from scraps of quiet. Pieces of simple. And yards of complex. Reams of contradictions too.  The scent of Noxema and lemon squares. The days of telephones, two lines and election night and slogans for a father’s campaign. A Southern Democrat. Aiming for Congress.

Pieces of me come from 1959. They would have to. I am gathering memories that make me me.  And recalling what came before and after, the days the milkman came. The days when a side porch held so much abundance and hope. The white liquid for dipping Oreo cookies. I didn’t. My father did. My father, a tickle machine. Raucous play and laughter. And multiple Christmas trees. My mother, silver and linens and elbows off the table Mabels. And Tab.  And I am just getting started.

Fifty-five years of shading in the details of me. The days before the poetry. My life could be labeled before poetry and after poetry. But I would rather think about the milkman.

5 thoughts on “The Days The Milkman Came

  1. Many similar memories. We still have the small metal crate that sat on our back stoop for our milk delivery in thick glass jars. And, in fact, my grandfather was a milkman. I still remember going into the back of his truck where he’d chip off a block of ice for us.

  2. Is it your birthday? If so, hope you have a great day. Yes, your yankee counterpart has similar memories… the milkman and grabbing the milk before it froze in the winter… the bread man, and him sneaking us snacks as he delivered the bread. The treats that were free, albeit, stale… the fuller brush man coming with his amazing wares. The images of Kennedy’s assassination, Viet Nam (and here we have a neighbor’s grief after her son stepped on a land mine and never returned), Kent State, so much our generation witnessed, and it was dinner and death, such a great post, thank you for sharing it.

  3. So evocative! I love this. I was born in 1977, but you’ve managed to bring me straight to 1959. Have you read the how-to-write memoir book Handling the Truth? I think you’d like it. Not dry at all, just very inspiring.

  4. Elizabeth, I love how you tell your story. I agree with Christie — evocative is so right! You are great at piecing these snatches and scraps of beauty and contradictions and mystery. Yummy. Much love, friend.

  5. By the way, I was born in ’74 and was just telling my girls about milk delivery the other day. How I remember those cold glass bottles on the porch. Mmmm. I love that thread here.

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