Very close to the end of the book. Page 214. Should finish up next week.
It’s been a real ride.
An Attitude Will Get You Somewhere
Rose didn’t ask to be born. She didn’t, “volunteer for any of this,” she liked to remind her mother Pureza and her teachers and the occasional priest who tried to world weary guidance to her.
I was right there when she made her way into the world, taking notes and even a few photographs. From the start, she had a certain attitude. “Oh Jesus,” Pureza yelled over and over between grunts and groans and coyote deafening screams. But Rose seemed to resist every thrust, every pleas to propel herself forth. It was as if she knew what awaited her and purposely stiffened up her little shoulders and stretched her arms out inside. It was awful to watch. With Sophia gone, there was no one with much sense to talk into the obstinate infant. “Oh God,” Pureza said, “This child will be the death of me.”
I watched Pureza try hard with this birth. At least her bleeding this time seemed to be for something worthwhile. After the birth, She declared, “I’m gonna make this baby real happy. I’m gonna do right by this little child.” I watched her endeavor to keep this vow.
But the village by now was not a place to make a life for any child. Besides, Pureza knew nothing about making a life. She could not really help Rose see beyond the postman’s trailers and her own stack of romance novels. “I gotta get some kinda excitement out of life,” she said when she saw me eyeing the books. “If I’m gonna stay in this trailer and feed a baby and cook for a postman, at least I can have me some fun in between meals,” she told me, “even if its out of books. You seem to get something out of ‘em.”
Rose, however, to her credit, kept that resistant attitude she had from the start. She got tough quickly. In the early grades of school, she wore tight little jeans and a tee shirt that said “Don’t Mess With Me” and stuck up for herself in play ground fights at school. Rose took her attitude with her when she signed up for the softball team. “Just try throwing me out, sucker,” she yelled at pitchers when she stole bases. She was a fierce first baseman who could stop every ball that came her way. All through the fifth and sixth grades, she did fine.
By junior high school, she had a problem. She was developing. And she used her attitude to try to deal with this new body. She fended off the girls who mocked her as “stuck up.” “Go on you little junior sluts. See where throwing around all you got gets you. I’m gonna be somebody.”
She fended off the boys who teased and later tried to have sex with her. No body, not one person of these school chums, seemed to think about anything but sex and drugs and alcohol. They organized parties at this place or that and drank and drugged until the bleak life they inherited was wiped from their consciousness.
Rose continued to have what the people called “an attitude.” Pureza said it everyday as if she wanted to undermine this determined daughter of hers. “She just doesn’t get along. Always has to be different,” Pureza told me between pieces of Whitman’s Samplers and glimpses at the Oprah show. She was a large woman now. She moved with difficulty. Her thigh flesh hung like a closing curtains over her knees and the lard of her multiple bellies made it difficult for make any sense of her vagina. She sometimes searched for her, wondering if it was still there, through the agency of a cocked mirror.
Rose, meanwhile, stayed fit and different. She kept away from the other kids and listened to stories the old women in the plaza still told occasionally. She helped Pureza around the house and stopped by the post office to help the old postman, while he was still at the job, sort mail when she got off school early. Then after high school, she worked there part time.
She did make some efforts at conventionality as defined by her cohorts. For example, one year she went with the other girls to have long acrylic nails glued over her own. That was around nineteen ninety-one. I think she had just turned thirty. She decorated these nails, by use of a tiny paintbrush and jars of model airplane shellac, with miniscule American flags. Everyone down there was doing it to show off their patriotism for the Desert Storm War. “You should see these nails of mine,” Aunt Henny (for that is what she called me). They are great. I can’t do a thing with them on. Can’t type. Can’t wash dishes. Can’t even sort mail. They’re kinda like the way those Chinese women got out of doing anything by binding their feet.”
She wore earrings that swept her shoulders, a style much in vogue among other young women. For a while, she held her ample hair back from her face in the popular “banana clips” that other girls wore. But aside from these superficial accomadations to normalcy, she was, on the whole, clearly different from the other girls and women in and around Solución.
She took her attitude with her when she went to the grocery store for Pureza or to the drugstore to get medicine for her Dad. She didn’t take “nothing from nobody.” It wasn’t easy for her. Her hair, still glinting red here and there when the sun hit it, was rich and thick and, when unclipped, fell down her back and framed in cheekbones with a great mane. Her breasts were large and well formed and her hips were slim. She was nearly five feet eight inches tall, and so taller than most of the women the locals were accustomed to seeing. Men and boys whistled at her, called to her from cars, and even screeched to a halt when they saw her in the cross walks in town. She tried keeping her eyes straight forward. She tried to seem to ignore them. She tried “flipping them off.” She tried making herself ugly. But she was always aware of them. And nothing seemed to dissuade the gawkers.
It was during this period that I came to know Rose best. I was an old woman from outside the village. She could confide in me because I wasn’t part of it all. I remembered, when we became friendly, that grand parents and great grand parents can play an important role with youngsters and do all over the world. So many of the constraints to real friendship that hold between parents and children disappear between grand parents and children. I listened and felt quite warm toward this bright young woman. She really had spunk and I liked her immensely for that.
To supplement the post office worked, she tried working as a checker in the Furr’s supermarket to make a little extra, but came home exhausted from fending off young and old fellows all day long. The post office was easier because she was surrounded by men who cared for her and protected her, including her old Dad.
One day, sometime soon after the Desert Storm nails, she called and told me that she had found one of the old people in the hills who still knew how to weave. She became her student. She began to go there, after her post office hours. She was good. She learned quickly and the weaver took her as an apprentice. “I’m gonna do this, Aunt Henrietta. The old woman is gonna teach me for nothing in exchange for a percentage of my profits. She is just sure I’m gonna sell.” I’d never heard her so happy. “What about those nails? How can you weave with press ons?”
“Oh, Auntie Henrietta, I took those off weeks ago. They were just for fun. This is for real.” I believed it was.
Even her early work was flawless. People who found the old weaver’s little shop remarked on Rose’s designs. It was wonderful work they said. Rose learned to weave the old way. She learned to card the wool and spin the yarn. She learned to find the plants for dyes and how to mix the dyes and care for the wool. She cared for the weaver when her back was sore and she was too tired to cook for herself.
Rose’s attitude was reserved for the outside world. Inside this world of weaving, she was a woman who had finally found her way. She found out about classes in the nearby towns and learned from other weavers and her skills increased and her dedication to her own life became fierce. She found an abandoned house inside the plaza walls and moved in there so she could concentrate on her own work and stay out of trouble that seemed to come to Pureza’s trailer and the trailers that surrounded it.
So, while all around her life was raw and dead ended, Rose had beauty and purpose.
Sometimes she found herself thinking about other places and wondering if she would ever see verdant forests or the ocean. She wondered if she would ever need an address book for she knew no one beyond Solución to call upon. She wondered if she would ever need a suitcase. She did sell enough of her work to buy a used Datsun. Sometimes, she thought, there is nothing really binding me. I could leave. I could go anywhere. But she dismissed these thoughts. They had not taken on the properties of obsessions or even dreams. Though she had an attitude, it seemed for a long time that Rose would live out her life amidst the arroyos and desperations of Solución, stopping in to see Pureza now and then. She could even imagine growing old, getting well known for her craft, winning prizes, getting her own apprentices, and eventually dying without passion for anything in life but her own work. Well, that would be enough, she thought. That would be plenty. She had a grim determination to do well, to make her own way, to be beholden to no one. Just occasionally it was lonely being Rose.
Poor Rose didn’t understand the desperations of Solución anymore than anyone else. She wondered why her warp strings broke and the spiders waited by the door and Barney, her mottled grey Australian Shepherd dog, frightened out of a deep sleep stood and barked into the dark plaza for no apparent reason.
And she wondered what it was that entered her dreams night after night and made her heart pound in her ears and made her skin drip with hot sweat.
Pureza wondered, too, but without the aid of dreams or conviction of vision. She sat in her trailer, all alone because by then the postman had died. She sat alone eating fried potatoes and eggs, listening to the fights in the trailers nearby, and trying to stay cool, calm her fears, and sleep through the night.
Pureza’s wondering was a passive sort of wondering. But Rose was different. I knew even then that Rose’s wondering would lead to something. Rose, I knew, would not give in.
[Miracles rest simply] upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears hear what there is about us always.
Willa Cather, Death Comes to the Archbishop