My cousin Jane and I had our first Communion on the same day.

The night before we paraded about my attic in our gowns, wearing our veils backwards, so we looked at the heavy trunks and musty hanging bags that surrounded us through a film of whiteness. We played at being brides. Laughing, Jane took my veil and righted it, saying that that meant I was married. I was smarter than that: gravely I lifted Jane's and pronounced her married - to Eddie Hillock, the kid who lived in the house with the broken front steps across from Jane's, who always had a runny nose and dirt under his fingernails. Jane snatched the veil from her head, and letting it fall, went to one of the trunks and began fishing around inside.

I went to the mirror that leaned under the sloping roof of the corner, and knelt to get my whole reflection, taking care to keep the crisp hem of my skirt clean. Afraid of ruining my new white tights I hadn't put them on, and my knees hurt on the wood of the rough hewn floor. In my mind I did look like a bride, but then, I had little experience of brides. Squinting, imagining a wand in my hand, I could see myself as the ever-fascinating fairy princess. If I only knew the magic words I could float away on a lily pad or flit around on a dragonfly. But I knew I was supposed to look like an angel. That's what Jane's big sister Grace had looked like on her First Communion, when I was too young to remember. But I'd seen a picture though, and she did look like an angel. Grace was beautiful, the only girl in the family blessed with yellow hair. Her picture was framed in a frosted cloud of white, she kneeling with the white rosary about her folded hands, curls flowing from beneath the veil, clear blue eyes looking earnestly just beyond the photographer, the white gown a heavenly robe. Jane was wearing that same "robe" now, but on her it didn't look angelic. I turned around to see her coming toward the mirror in a pair of bright red high-heeled shoes two times as big as her feet.

"Look, movie-star shoes!" she said as she accidently stepped out of one. "I just need a fur coat." I was skeptical.

We heard the door open and Jane's other big sister Irene came towards them. "Jane! What are you doing? Ma's looking for you. What are you two doing wearing those dresses - they're not for your silly little games. Is that your veil on the floor? You'd catch it if Ma saw you up here in that." Irene was only four years older, but tried to act much more so. Jane had kicked away the shoes, which her sister would surely have found blasphemous, and began to untie the sash of her gown. We didn't say anything. "Jane, we're going home now." Irene ignored me.

I made a face at Jane in the mirror. She giggled quietly. "I'm coming," was all she said. Irene seemed monstrous to me, and I always felt sorry that Jane had to live with her. We said nothing and looked at the floor, waiting for her to leave. Muttering about how trying we were to her she did, and I helped Jane unfasten her dress.

"Grace said I could wear her pearls tomorrow," said Jane, as she turned and carefully loosened the faux-peal buttons down my back. "Remember Momma said we could wear flowers in our hair to, so pick some."


"Are you scared Sylvie? About tomorrow, I mean?"

"No." Jane had changed her clothes and was solemnly arranging Grace's gown on its satin hangar. She began to go. "Remember me in your prayers." She came back and put her arms around me. We always remembered each other. She scurried out, leaving the door open behind her. A few moments later I heard her and her sisters and mother on the porch below through the open window. Aunt Mary was calling to my father inside.

"Don't be late, George, bring her to our place by 8:30." Then, I heard quieter talk as Jane, Irene and Cissy, my toddling baby cousin got into the big car and Aunt Mary slowly backed it onto the road.

Still in my gown, I sat before the mirror. I noticed the red shoes on the floor, picked them up and placed them in my lap, gazing at their reflection. They sat among the white filmy folds of my dress like relics. I knew they must have been mother's, and I put my hands inside, where her feet must have been. Tomorrow, I thought, she'd be watching me as I fully took part in Mass for the first time. I imagined her smiling down at me, surrounded by angels, and suddenly hoped I wasn't wrinkling my gown. Carefully I got up, and slowly and tenderly put the shoes back in their box, stroked them like they were kittens. I changed out of my dress.

It had gotten dark. I heard my father outside, feeding Cass and Red, who barked in welcome. I closed the attic door and climbed onto a trunk by the window. I sat there - no longer a potential fairy princess, just looking at the roof and the top of the lilac tree and the sky - and thought about things.

As for me, I know of nothing else but miracles.