Cattivo Ragazzino

Mid-afternoon rays fell through the bay
window’s lace curtain veil to rest warmly
on the insides of my soft little thighs
as I sat cross-legged on the hardwood floor
of the spacious dining room where mama
held her appointments, took measurements
and did fittings for well-to-do women,
each determined to be the first
in her circle to sport the next in look.

An expert designer and dressmaker, my mama –
Italian-born, emigrated to Vancouver at age 32,
poorly-versed in English though possessed
of an exquisite fashion sense –
and I, her five-year-old interpreter,
responsible for relaying
questions and answers
about textures and patterns,
hem-lengths and fabrics,
waistlines, cosmetics,
accessories, shoes,
so adorable to the ladies who
marveled at my intuitive grasp
of both languages at so young an age,
entirely unself-conscious about standing
before me in nothing but nylon tights
and brassieres, dainty silk camisoles
and lace-trimmed chemises.
I could not help but stare
in sheer wonderment.

And sometimes, when mama left to answer
the telephone or prepare an espresso
for a customer as she dressed,
I approached shyly and with my harmless
little boy hand reached out to caress
a sheeny stocking and return the ticklish
smile she beamed through the full-length mirror.

First published in Accenti Magazine Issue 10.

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