“What I Remember About That Dress” by Norma Bernstock

Norma Bernstock


When a cousin asked me to be her bridesmaid, 
I shopped for my dress at Bergdorf’s on Fifth Avenue
because Ronni said, Do it for a goof
her favorite expression that summer.
We mostly shopped in stores like Alexander’s 
and Klein’s as our immigrant parents did.

That summer Ronni and I worked as office temps
earning money for that year’s college fees.
Lunchtimes we’d browse the high-end shops 
and fantasize a life that matched.
We put on airs inviting the perfumed 
and proper sales ladies to wait on us.
A dark pink A-line dress caught my eye.
Unlined and cotton, affordable mother agreed 
when I called from the payphone booth.

Three weeks later, on a rainy weekday,
we arranged to meet for the fitting.
As I scanned the first floor displays,
I spotted my mother by the UP escalator in her galoshes,
the knot of her plastic rain scarf pushing against her chin,
a thermos peeking out of a cloth shopping bag.

Another daughter would have greeted her with a smile,
thanked her for leaving work early, 
not corrected her mispronounced English. 
Another daughter would have bought a dress closer to home.

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022
Tribute to Librarians


Norma Bernstock: “I became a school librarian after teaching middle school for eight years and mostly loved those days when I would take my students to the library and get them excited about all the new books. I worked in various school libraries for 26 years of my 34-year career in public education and knew it was time to switch careers when I’d make the students wait in the hall until I sat at my computer and typed in the poem I’d been composing in my head on the way to school!”

Rattle Logo