Inheritance by Joanna Manning

It’s time to tuck away the old woman’s coats and the woolen socks she has pinned toe-to-toe. Winter’s gone. But in the chill of that last winter, when her blood struggled to reach her toes, she had complained about socks. “I need more,” she’d insisted, again and again, like a meditation tacked onto her morning rosary. But maybe I’d been misinterpreting her pleas. More encompasses so much in the end. After her death, I’d counted eighty-six pairs of socks in her bureau, all of them neatly pinned together to save the elastic from wear. The coats in her closet were pristine. Had their tags not been from bygone department stores, I would have thought they had been plucked from the rack just last week. I admired this skill for preservation, a Depression-era relic, even as I tore off the plastic covers to try everything on. Sixty years between us but her coats suit me, I thought, twirling in front of her floor-length mirror. I look fashionable in an old woman’s clothes. Perhaps it isn’t the fashion that suits. She never would have loaned me the coat from her back, much less given what I took from her. Your disposable generation, she might have said, halting here to narrow her eyes. You can’t be trusted with nice things. Here’s where death can settle old scores. The packing can wait. I wear her prized fur coat to the supermarket, over tattered blue jeans. I take the socks and remove the pins, one-by-one. Then I roll them, ankles stretching over toes, and toss them casually onto the floor.


Joanna Manning is a graduate of Syracuse University and the Rainier Writing Workshop. Her columns have appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune and Thrive Global, and her essays have been featured or are forthcoming in Collateral, Water~Stone Review, and The Other Journal: An Intersection of Theology and Culture. She lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Image by Sabine van Erp