At the Flower Show, Pittsburgh 1957 by Joan Leotta

A field of flowers under an expansive Victorian globe.

An indoor profusion of summer, whilst outside bare branches still brushed gray.

Chill skies –that was what we were promised.

We waited for the realization of that promise, two by two, adding our own small breathy clouds to those of the sky. Sister Anne patrolled our line, ensuring order.

At last, time to move ahead.

Delores and I shuffled in, our oxfords scuffing against the polished stone floor of the walkway. Petal upon petal of warm rich colors in vastness, aromatic floral beauty nestled in rows of green all around us…

As Sister Anne passed control of the group to the guide, I removed my coat and hung it over my arm, as we had been told to do if we got warm.

My navy serge uniform jumper was freshly pressed with a white linen hankie, stylishly folded in the upper right pocket, matching the white of the round collared long-sleeved blouse beneath.

About halfway into the tour, the misty warmth under the glass and the fragrance of those exotic blooms snatched the air from me. I began to cough; my legs and consciousness betrayed me. A chaperone grabbed me under the elbows and kept me from collapsing to the floor. My partner, Delores, and the rest of the class marched on with Sister Anne.

Sylvia’s mother, the chaperone, guided me to a bench.

The perfumed air still whirled around me. So thick, I fancied I could see it moving. Sylvia’s mother pressed me back onto my feet, propelling me toward the door. She told the woman at the desk to call my mother. We waited there. Through the brass trimmed glass doors, I saw Schenley Park’s hills stretched out before me with sill-brown February grass.

Bare tree limbs bereft of buds.

A few minutes later, a blast of cold, harsh air entered my lungs as the doors opened. I saw my mother, in her work clothes – a gray skirt and white blouse – rushing toward me. She thanked Sylvia’s mother for helping me and steered me out to our neighbor’s brown Dodge station wagon to take me home.

Plain colors, sharp cold air never seemed so lovely.

Not everybody is suited to a world of warmth and lush colors.

 

 

 

 

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Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. Joan recently completed a month as a Tupelo Press’ 30/30 poet. Four novels, a collection of short stories and picture book are in print with three different publishers. She has poetry or essays in Gnarled Oak, Red Wolf, A Quiet Courage, Eastern Iowa Review, Hobart Literary Review, Silver Birch and Postcard Poems and Prose. Joan also performs folklore and one-woman shows on historic figures. Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband Joe. She collects shells, pressed pennies and memories.

 

 

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