I Did Like Butter

My husband and I watched his mother, Jackie, park her white Toyota and cross our busy street. She wore a bright-red sweatshirt because this June day in New Orleans was mercifully cool. She liked to see her son once a week, so we used to stop by her house. In the middle of her kitchen table sat a bowl filled with lemon drops and Dum Dums for her baker’s dozen great-grandchildren. Over the past year, though, Jackie had been driving to our house on Sunday mornings to catch us for a cup of coffee. We looked forward to these visits.

She told Malcolm and me about a wedding she’d been to where she drank an old-fashioned or two and line danced to the Bucktown Allstars. The buffet had featured baked potato sundaes topped with black caviar that she scraped off.

For fifty years Jackie worked with students with special needs at St. Michael School, first teaching and then running a balloon program with the mentally disabled adults. They filled mylar balloons with helium, and she stuffed bobbing bouquets into the Toyota to deliver them to birthday parties and other happy occasions.

She told us the school had canceled her contract and she was out of work. Malcolm wanted to write an indignant letter to the archdiocese, but all Jackie wanted was her job back.

“How’s your mom doing?” Jackie asked.

“Not line dancing,” I said.

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