Yankee Thrift – K. Ann MacNeil

When I married into my tranny ex-husband’s (solidly middle class, mid-western, white-not-Italian) family,
I struggled to define, even if I often invoked, Yankee thrift,
a thing beyond the piggybacking of a sliver of old bar soap onto the new,
resulting in a humpbacked formation too big to hold.

A series of demotions, really,
the “Silent Night! Holy Night!” towel from my mother’s girlhood,
that became a washcloth for my daughter, her granddaughter,
then a dishtowel for her decades-dead grandmother’s pasta bowl,
then a rag for sopping up curbside oil left by neighbors
in front of our Jackson Street tenement.

On a now-not-so-recent trip home to Lawrence, Massachusetts,
I could have stripped the trundle bed of my godmother’s teen-aged sheets,
the ones with the yellow daisies that my gram and nana had ironed,
in the middle of their first floor kitchen,

with a spray of (homemade rose)water.
I slept under the comforter I had chosen myself at eighteen, sweating in a too short skirt and flip flops,
new, if seasons old and pennies each from Lazarus House, real store tags still on,
in the musty, under air-conditioned warehouse of Building Nineteen and some fraction
that first summer I pulled away, the first person in our family to start college.

I dried my face with a towel left over from my senior year there,
an ex-girlfriend’s cast-off after she shaved her head,
and wrapped my hair up in a red one from the faded glory of the adoption home study collection
that I had passed on to my mum, back when I had wanted to seem
more settled,
more grown up,
more ordinary than even I was,
to a parade of social workers,
all straight,
all women of color,
all finding me,
maybe begrudgingly,
maybe surprisingly,
maybe, sadly,
beyond reproach in my housekeeping.


K. Ann MacNeil is a teacher and writer now living and working at the tip-top of an island (Manhattan), near the bank of an estuary (where the Harlem and Hudson Rivers meet), at the edge of a-two-hundred acre forest. She (and her teenaged daughter) routinely toy with the idea of writing a collection of urban fairy tales set there.  Her work has been published in This Assignment is So Gay: LGBTIQ Poets on the Art of Teaching; The Q Review; and Girls: An Anthology, and is forthcoming in Significant Letters: Messages from the Sideline of the Transgender Community.

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