Regular Americans Speak Out Part 11 Housewife and Miner's Wife

A series of essays from various regular Americans on love, work, and life in these United States including a housewife and a miner's wife.

America Speaks

PAMELA WARDWELL, housewife, New York City, N.Y.

"I sit outside on our stoop, enjoying the baking sun, and my son plays through the iron fence with the 2 little girls who live in the old brownstone apartment house down the block. They are sweet children. Annie, the older sister, is about 5, Linny perhaps 3; they have pretty, delicate faces, always dirty, round, blue eyes, uncombed straw-blond hair, and are usually dressed in ill-assorted checks and plaids. Annie tells me long stories, sitting beside me on the steps, or shows me the treasures she carries with her in a tiny plastic pocketbook. Linny stands by with a grubby thumb in her mouth and indicates her wants (a gum ball, her shoe tied) with urgent, wordless noises. Today they are alone on the sidewalk and my son, who is not allowed to play beyond our fence, is trying to climb the bars. I hear him ask, 'Where's your Mommy?' and Annie reply, 'We don't have a Mommy. Don't you know our Mommy died?' My heart sinks. Where I come from, the safe suburbs, children's mothers don't die." (From: Voices of Brooklyn edited by Sol Yurick. Chicago, American Library Assn., 1973.)

KATHERINE TILLER, miner's wife, Trammel, Va.

"When we were living in Ragland, W.Va. where John had a job for a while, we had to pay for our water. We had been cut off work about 3 months, and one day we hadn't paid our water bill for that month. This man came up to the door and he wanted $2.50 or he was going to cut off the water. I begged him, I told him just as soon as we got our paycheck we'd pay him. He just said no, and he cut it off.

"I got so mad. I got wild. My whole body got numb. It affected my hands and my eyes and it lasted a long time. I must have been about 6 months pregnant at the time. I kind of date my trouble with the baby back to that time. That's why he was born premature, why he wasn't strong enough, why he couldn't make it.

"He was such a beautiful baby, such a fat little baby, with bright red hair. And we took him home. The next morning, the baby began to make strange little noises and bring his little arms up in the air and his little mouth would draw up. When Mama saw him she said to take him back to the hospital. So we took him back. I knew then the baby wasn't going to make it. And he didn't. His lungs collapsed.

"I was so hurt. He was like a ray of sunshine to the family. Our oldest boys, Johnny and Mark, they'd even named him after a Cincinnati baseball player, a black man named George Crow. But of course, we called him Kevin. He was such a lovely baby, after he was born John felt like everything was going to be just fine from then on. Then to have him snatched away like that. ... We didn't have any money. And people that says money don't matter is dead wrong, 'cause when you don't have it, it does matter." (From: Hillbilly Women by Kathy Kahn. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1973.)

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