Inestimable Susan Straight, author of short-story “Mines” with a timely opinion piece

SOMETIMES life is like a fun-house mirror, the glass and then the real thing. I had just watched the TV show “The New Normal,” a comedy about what used to be called untraditional families, for the first time, and the same day I read about Mitt Romney’s son Tagg and his wife, Jennifer, having twins through a surrogate pregnancy, using the same surrogate mother they had back in 2009. A week later, a few choice remarks were made about single mothers in the presidential debate.

I laughed about it with my neighbor, C, who gave me her usual incredulous look and said, “For reals?” She hadn’t heard.

She had just stopped pumping breast milk for the last baby she delivered, who belonged to a wealthy couple in another state. She had to drive 45 miles every day back to the hospital with an ice chest because, she said, “They bought the milk, too.”

My block doesn’t fit into the neat 47 percent category, because a lot of people don’t get any government help, though they could use it. I’ve lived here for 25 years, got divorced 15 years ago (though my ex-husband comes by nearly every day). Another neighbor has been here for 18 years, and her husband left three years ago for a younger woman — midlife crisis, we joked, though she’s alone with an autistic son and only part-time work as a funeral and wedding singer. We bring each other food, help each other with kids and rides, and we hang on.

I’ve seen neighbors come and go, and I hope C stays forever. She was married at 16 years old, and she had two daughters before her husband was murdered. She married again, had three more children, and then that husband was convicted of a crime she can barely bring herself to mention to me. He’s in prison “forever, I hope.”

Now she’s married to F, who came to California 20 years ago from El Salvador. He works at an oil refinery, she works hourly assignments as a surgical tech, and last summer he had to sell his beloved motorcycle from my front yard for $600 so they could pay the utilities bill that went so high because of August heat.

via Making Babies, Just to Make Ends Meet – NYTimes.com.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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