I Will Not Wear Boots

The snow is deepening
and we are going out;
It is a party.
I will not wear boots,
I tell my mother.
She never gets it.
She is practical,
she is critical, too.
She tells me I’m shallow
because I care how I look.
I cannot wear snow boots.
It is a party.
My soft-leather burgundy shoes,
T-bars, with a buckle.
That is what I shall wear.
It is a party.
They go with my dress.
It’s Christmas in six days.
I really cannot wait.
I made snowflakes from paper,
cutting them out one by one.
Now they hang from the ceiling
in our living room, tied daintily
on white thread.
It’s been a horrible year –
so many problems, upsets
and loss. Lots of loss.
I am so excited for Christmas.
And to be going out tonight.
It is a party.
As we prepare to leave,
my mother stops by our stairs.
Holding the bannister, looking around, slowly.
Can you smell smoke? she asks.
No! I reply. Let’s go! We will be late!
It is a party.
A Christmas evening at friends’.
Today was the last day of school.
I was given a box of chocolates.
I put them in my room to save them.
But I will never enjoy them.
We leave the house now.
For the last time ever.
It is a party.
We need to go.

The next day, I haven’t slept.
Because I have no bed now.
I still have my party dress on.
My mother’s friend tells me
You cannot go out in the snow.
You have no boots, she reports.
That’s right. I refused to wear them.
It was a party.
They did not go with my dress.
I can smell the stale scent of my
party clothes now.
But I cannot take them off.
I have nothing else to wear.
Suddenly, I decide it was my fault.
Mama, I caused it
I left hot chocolate
on the stove.
I am crying now.
The adults all reassure me;
No, you are imagining.
It was electrical.
It was the washing machine,
faulty wiring, the fire chief said.
Years later, I realise I was a child,
I did not know how to use the stove.
I just wanted to blame myself.
It must have been someone’s fault.
It was a party.
I was looking forward to Christmas.
I needed to absorb the guilt.
I imagine the bright flames,
licking at my pretty snowflakes,
I cut out of the paper so carefully.
Did they all burn?
I think I can smell the ashes
from the next town,
where we are staying.
Homeless.
It was a party.
It feels wrong our house is gone now.
Everything feels wrong. It’s Christmas.
It was a party.
It was a party.
Why am I being punished again?
It was a party.
I wish I had worn my snow boots.

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