It Was the Summer After the Summer of Love

Cosme and Margarita Padua
I must have been ten or eleven,
I’m not sure which,
and it must have been
the summer after the summer of love,
when I looked through a dresser drawer
in the basement stuffed
with some of my Mom’s clothes.
I knew they were old
because they didn’t have that crisp,
pressed feel of something
that had just been brought home from the store,
but rather had that smooth and cool feeling
like early-in-the-morning,
not-quite-awake skin;
and at the bottom,
reaching with my hand,
fingers spread apart,
I touched something with my thumb
and when I pull it out
I see it’s a dusty paperback sex manual
illustrated with wooden peg figures,
and it’s the first time in my life
that I’ve ever had an image
or maybe it just an idea
(which was still bad enough)
of my parents doing it,
having sex, grabbing each other
the way that grown-ups do,
and I thought, “Oh my God,”
even though by that time I was already beginning
to lose at least some measure
of my religious beliefs,
and I flipped through the pages thinking,
“Did they do this position or that one?”
before I had to slap the open pages
back together,
shove the book back under the old clothes
and push the drawer shut
with two strong hands.
I was a kid and I was suddenly thinking
about what only the weirdest kids liked to think about
when it came to mothers and fathers,
and I went upstairs,
checked out what was on TV,
looked through the records piled on top
of our Magnavox console stereo,
then went up to my room and considered
trying to read the most difficult book I had
on my bookshelf,
all in an attempt to change the subject
going through my young head.
Now when I think of wooden peg figures
I remember one television show—The CBS Evening News,
one record—”Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,”
and one book—Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment,
and how alive and warm we were
in those days I spent imagining
the lush, elegant rooms
where I might one day
bring the woman I love
and the intense but beautiful
labor it would take
in the grand and noble
cultivating and creating
of future generations.

-Jose Padua

Photograph of Cosme and Margarita Padua (circa 1950)

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