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Gail Fishman Gerwin

In days before supermarkets took AmEx and
Visa, you could count on a wad of S&H green
stamps, a handful of promises with bags of
groceries. I’d jam them in the drawer where
I keep instructions for the washer, oven,
vacuum, where I stash staplers, labels, tape,
confetti, where you still find car keys for long-
departed vehicles, Number Two pencils (erasers
chewed off), ticket stubs, unused postage,
the kind you had to lick. When my mother
came to visit, she’d take the green sheets
from the drawer, tsk-tsk at the mess, fill
a bowl with water, sponge the stamps, slap
them in redemption books until there were
enough to go to the S&H store on South
Street to choose a prize. For free! The first
time I redeemed, I came home with a Cuisinart
processor, only sixty books. That Thanksgiving
I pureed everything: Idahos, Brussels sprouts,
spinach, apples, turkey stuffing. (Our guests
asked if we had dental problems.) The next time
Mom put enough books together with rubber
bands I knew exactly what I wanted—a brass
bed for the dog. This elegant piece of furniture
sported scrolled headboard and footboard, its
golden base supported a two-inch, terrier-tailored
mattress. When I pointed to the bed in the glossy
catalog, the agent told me it was a special order,
not in stock, why don’t you take the bed on the shelf,
only six books, look how many you’ll have left. When
I told her no, the dog deserved the brass bed (he
hadn’t bitten anyone in months), she cupped her
hand on the right side of her mouth, told me
in secret, no one else should hear, especially
the dog (who wasn’t there), it won’t be here
for the holidays.

From Dear Kinfolk,(ChayaCairn Press, 2012).
Used with the author’s permission.


Gail Fishman Gerwin (1939 - 2016), a “Jersey girl” from birth who claims to have channeled Dorothy Parker and Sylvia Plath on occasion, authored three poetry collections: Crowns (Aldrich Press) was inspired in part by her four grandchildren; Sugar and Sand was a Paterson Poetry Prize finalist, and Dear Kinfolk (ChayaCairn Press) earned a Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. Founder of the writing/editing firm Inedit, Gail was also the associate poetry editor for Tiferet and frequently participated in workshops and panels on the creative process.

Post New Comment:
How precious those green stamps were. And what difficult decisions over how to "spend" them. I cried when our house was broken into and the thieves made off with fifty two books!
Posted 12/16/2012 11:06 PM
Thanks, everyone, for your comments. These memories keep our loved ones with us.
Posted 12/14/2012 01:47 PM
Tony G:
I grew up around the corner from an S&H redemption center/warehouse. They also kept the best softball field behind the warehouse. They, as Joni Mitchell said, paved paradise and put up a parking lot for a WalMart, a Costco, and a gas station. Thanks for the memories. It was fun!
Posted 12/14/2012 10:35 AM
I remember those too. They were fun and reading your poem made me laugh with memories of my own mother's tsk tsk at the junk drawer as she found the green stamps.
Posted 12/14/2012 09:40 AM
nancy scott:
I miss those green stamps, all the stuff I didn't need, but also couldn't afford to buy, especially the giant fish tank which my eight year old had coveted for months and finally got.
Posted 12/14/2012 08:31 AM
Thanks for the memories! I still have a high chair my mother cashed in her green stamps for, back in 1964!
Posted 12/14/2012 07:59 AM

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