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by Caroline Johnson

It is snowing softly. Mother grips
the steering wheel with gloved hands,
intent on our mission. She turns down

a tree-lined street and slowly pulls
up to a darkly-lit house with peeling
gray paint, sagging porch, so different

from the other Victorian houses with
perfect trim and lighted driveways.
I can smell the pine from the back

of our Buick, where a dozen wreaths
fill the seats, each tied with a homemade
red ribbon. "Here," she says, thrusting

a large one into my small hands.
"Go up there and ring the doorbell."
Numb, I blink and feel I am at the dentist
after the pricking of Novocain and a dull
toothache. "Go on," she says, pushing me
out the door. So I walk, my legs weak,

frozen, clutching the wreath tightly,
into the dark night and towards Mrs. Smith,
my first lesson in kindness.

Previously published in The Best of Kindness anthology (Origami Poems Project,
2016) and The Caregiver (Holy Cow! Press, 2018).


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