caroline hughes

No More Real Summers

Caroline Hughes

ISSUE NO. 3 • GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT

When thinking of saying goodbye to my undergrad life, my mind kept going to all of the summers I have enjoyed as a child, and how it feel like I can never go back to a time like that again. So, this is my goodbye to adolescent summers.

The stringy web of the veins of

corn husks stick to my scabbed knees

as we shove the stripped green shells of

all of the sunny ears of sweet corn

into the plastic bags they came in

We present on a bent knee the

Golden cobs, and watched them

sacrificed to the bubbling pot

The first bite always leaves

runny yellow smears of butter

on our burnt noses and

freckle spotted cheeks

We turn our backs to our mothers

as they spray the hose up and down

the hinds of our legs, almost making our knees

buckle,

trying to erase the sand stuck to our sunscreen

coated bodies

The pressure hard enough to hurt

when it hits our softest parts

I have canned corn in the corner

of my kitchen cabinet

and the ocean is an hours drive

without traffic

I have all the freedom in the world

to do whatever I want

except truly feel disarrayed

I want my summers to be messy,

like a bite of corn

Mājas

Caroline Hughes

Issue NO. 2 • ARE WE THERE YET?

I wrote this piece for the Brink because one of the things I want to do after graduation is travel. I’m very excited to, and I want to go to Latvia and explore my family’s history, but I feel some guilt for wanting to go there because of my mother’s feeling towards the country. In this piece, I try to explore this conflict.

The first time my grandma tried bubblegum she swallowed it. The American soldier that freed her and her sisters from their Displaced Persons camp in Germany, laughed as they all ate- not chewed- the fluorescent pink gum that he gave them. Having tried the Latvian candy that my great uncles always bring to Christmas, I know that must've been the sweetest thing that had ever touched my grandma’s tongue as a child. A spark of color in a world of gray and ash.

She doesn’t like to talk about the actual Holocaust to my brother, cousins, and I. When shes does bring it up, she talks about the bubblegum and how that soldier was the first black person she had ever seen. When my mother talks about it, she’ll share the stories my grandma had slipped to her as a child. My mom said it was to put her own complaints and issues into perspective. You can’t whine to your mom because when she was your age a Nazi plane dove down to shoot at her for target practice as she was walking to her family’s barn. It makes a fight with your best friend seem miniscule. Makes all of your problems seem insignificant, almost laughable.

My cousin’s girlfriend, a girl whose quiet nature drives my aunt up a wall, studied abroad in Florence last spring. When he visited her they decided to stay a few nights in Riga, the capital of Latvia. My grandma was proud, her own children have never visited, let alone expressed any substantial interest to. My mom and her sister may even be citizens. Their late father, my Pa John, would mention acquiring their citizenship for them after the Berlin Wall came down. However, neither of them has ever checked to see if he left even more uncompleted things behind before he passed too early.

My cousin would send me pictures, awkward selfies in front of tall spiral buildings, the captions in Latvian. I would shove my phone under my mom’s nose, asking her to translate the words, which just looked to me like my cousin scrambled his fingers across his keyboard and clicked send. She would recoil as if it were a bad smell, and claim she wouldn’t know enough Latvian to translate. After pleading and annoying her, she would glance at the phone for a second, say he spelled a few words wrong, or that his grammar was off, and then would produce a perfect translation. All within two seconds, with little to no effort.

I’ve seen my mom perform this trick many times growing up. Whether its her and my grandma following a family in IKEA, trying to figure out if they are speaking Latvian or not, or my mom whispering to her cousin at a funeral, their tongues rolling in ways that the language that WE share never does.

In middle school I asked my mom why she never taught my brother and I Latvian. It was like she was withholding a secret code that we haven't earned the right to unlock yet. When my dad would hear these conversations, he’d butt in reminding us we were also Irish and Italian (but Boston Irish/Italian heritage is boring, and I’d rather eat one hundred Latvian candies than be boring). She said it was because she barely knew it anymore. She was fluent as a child, but then her kindergarten teacher told my grandparents that she sometimes had trouble not slipping into Latvian in class. My grandparents panicked, flashing back to when they first came to America, a melting pot that burns each ingredient as it’s added. For years, they only spoke English at home.

I see her first language spark on her tongue though. Whether it’s at an Easter dinner, singing a church hymn at a funeral, or when she is reading an old to-do lists from the 80s, forgotten in a kitchen junk drawer in our summer cottage in New Hampshire. It seems so personal, like she is the only person left who speaks this sacred and secret language.

I didn’t even know my mother’s real name until middle school. To be fair I practically did know it, but still, I felt the injustice in my bones. On her driver’s license, she is Anna M. Hughes. Pronounced by everyone Ann-a. It is actually Anna, as in Ah-nah. I gave her a lot of crap for that one. Even more recently, she told me she didn’t fully erase her maiden name. She added it as a second middle name. This time I wasn’t upset. In fact, I felt a sense of relief that confused me for why I felt it, but I did all the same.

It's no secret I want to go to Latvia. Finally see the country that I cheer for in every Olympic event that they make it to. See the bitter candies in actual stores, instead of the ceramic sunflower bowl my cousin made in her sixth grade art class. Apparently there is a house in my mom and aunt’s name there, but they don't collect rent from whoever lives there now.

My mom always comments when I plan my imaginary trip, not unkindly, but truthfully in the way mothers can.

“Wouldn't you rather go to Italy?”

Well, yeah I would. I want to go to Italy, Paris, Greece, and Japan. Also, Scotland, and when I think about it more, I have a cousin I could visit in Belgium as well. Even so, I still can’t help but feel like I have to go to Latvia. There could be nothing for me to find there except my grandma’s approval for going, of course. I can’t help but wonder, do I owe something to this country? It gave me my family, my history, and technically my life, and I only know a petty change handful of words in its language. It feels almost like a betrayal to not claim it as a part of me.

This year my mom finally told me the truth. Resentment, not a kind colored in anger but sadness, carried her words from her mouth. Her parents never saw America as their home. Not the country, state, or town they lived in. Not the tiny three bedroom house my mom grew up in. It was her home, and her sister’s without a doubt. That’s where their family was. My mom thinks it was never enough for them. They always longed for a home that was as foreign to my mom as it is to me. I don’t think she’ll ever go because then she’ll have to confront a piece of her parents that she was in constant rivalry with her whole life.

People always try to fix their parents mistakes with their own children. I think my mom made sure my brother and I had her completely. We never had to compete for her against her home. I think her plan worked. My brother studied political science, learning about how OUR government system works. I’m getting my degree in English, the only language my mother comfortably claims.

Peach Fuzz

Caroline Hughes

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

When thinking about love for this piece, I thought about a relationship that has affected my past few years at school. This relationship has changed a lot while at school, and is being affected as this period of our lives comes to an end.

When we met you shook my hand

you heedlessly picked it up

already fragile and peach skinned

and held it so tight that your uneven

and bitten-down-to-the-wick fingernails

pierced right through my delicate derma

to my cloying flesh

bleeding nectar down your unabashed fingers

and pooling between where our

shoes were merely kissing on the ground

I predicted I could be your ripe

flavor for at least a month

Till I inevitably became rotten

and you craved something that wouldn’t

pinch your gums as much when

I asked you to take a bite of me again and again

A tear-off paper calendar shows

a pile of weeks that stack into months

I consciously tuck my nose and mouth

into the hem of your moth-eaten t-shirt I stole

Masking my unavoidable aroma

Putrid and intoxicating

strong enough to erode any lingering attachment

You now fit your face

in between my neck and shoulder

and inhale slowly without recoiling

I feel the corner of our lips flick up

“Your hair tickles,”

I go to move it but your hand

Grabs mine with such care

I forget I’m supposed to be bruised

Your nose traces the tiny hairs that never grow behind my ear

“its like peach fuzz.”