We inherited my grandmother’s chaise lounge. Mimi died at 91 with enough possessions to fill a two-bedroom apartment and its patio, where this chaise held forth with about four other wrought-iron pieces. Mimi was a raconteur, and almost everybody in town knew her back when the town was that small, before I was born.

My brother and I took turns spending afternoons under the big green awning, hearing stories of Newport News from around 1870 on. We were amused and quieted by the conventions she insisted on: the offer of a seat and then of ice cream, the means of handling a teacup or a book.

Her storytelling was vivid. What impressed me most was the way she could jump twenty-five, fifty, or a hundred years, back and forth, by means of the queerest associations.

catbird’s canticle
written and bound