rare steaks and raw carrots
my great, great aunt wore canary diamonds
that were said to be the size of gull's eggs.
they decorated her hand like an ostentatious Christmas tree.
she had an antique birdcage carved from ivory
(or was it a doll's house?)
that had been in the family for generations.
she would rise before first light and
be seated for breakfast by five o'clock sharp -
never being late for morning mass.
each day she would descend the grand staircase
in her black silks and fine lace and
float into the mahogany dining room.
the long table was set as though for a banquet
and her seat was at the far end.
they served her bloody rare steak and
grated raw carrots with a squeeze of lemon juice.
these quirks only manifested
after the tragic death of her daughter.
"one of those mysterious fevers,"
my mother would recount.
she had wanted to be a nun but
had been forbidden that life.
the death was God's punishment.
my large family is peppered with eccentric widows of means.
"the widows were the lucky ones in those days,
many of the females had ended in asylums."
discarded by greedy husbands and nefarious uncles.
my mother was made to visit them.
she never talked about it,
aside to say it happened.
before her death, she promised my mother the
hand carved ivory birdcage (or dollhouse).
my mother knew she would never see it.
this always made me quietly outraged,
believing she had suffered a great injustice.
her feelings however, are quite different.
something far more valuable had been gained
in the form stories she could tell to me.