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The Grandmother Gene

Sun is butter on my mother's face,
spills like apple juice over Becky's
highchair, down her front. Her black curls,
sticky with breakfast, stick out

every which way, gilded with Cheerios.
My mother also sports a Cheerio, a jaunty
stowaway, half hidden under a curl.
My daughter and my mother poke out

their tongues, wave them like crazy flags.
Brian clicks off the slide projector,
pats the machine like a geriatric friend.
Becky has just turned twenty two,

skypes her British boyfriend every night
planning her trip to London.
Three weeks later I get an email
from East Anglia. Mom, don't have

a heart attack but I used your Visa card
for a pregnancy test. Don't worry.
It's not for me. I bought it for a friend.
I believe her, of course.

I write, Thanks for the warning.
You're always so good to your friends.
I sit back, measure sugar into my tea.
I let my heart rate slow.

I'll never tell her how it pounded,
six beats—worry,
three beats—fear,
one beat—joy.

Ellen Aronofsky Cole
Previously Published in Notes From the Dry County, Mayapple Press, 2019