The letters are sitting right here, bound in dirty string so they can’t come open too easily, so they can’t steal my nights as I look for secrets in their creases. Mama developed Grandma’s preference for onionskin paper too, and felt-tip, I wait for this to happen to me, I’m certain it will. The only way to tell the difference between Mama’s letters and Grandma’s at first glance is that Mama’s stay bundled up so tight the string rips into their pages and Grandma’s are loose and open, all over this table. I keep Mama’s letters closed, keep their edges close together like a cut that needs force to heal. I’m all wrapped up in there, jumbled with her, small i‘s and slashes, her story in my story at every turn. (70)
Oh, girlchild. I finished reading this book earlier this afternoon, but I don’t know how I felt about it. Rory Dawn Hendrix has grown up in the Calle, a trailer park in a town north of Reno, and all she wants, all her mother and grandmother want, is to grow up and get out without making the same mistakes that the women in her family have made before her.
On the one hand, it’s hard to believe in Rory’s voice. On the other? The writing in this book is absolutely beautiful, with a lilt that makes the words sing in a way I find so appealing. This is the story of a lot of ugly things. About what it’s like to grow up poor. About what it’s like to be unable to escape the abuse that is rampant in your community. About what it’s like to want. It’s also about the beautiful things that can be found anywhere, even a place like the Calle. A mother’s love for her child. Hope when it seems impossible to do so. A patchwork carpet made from sample tiles from the carpet store, mismatched and lovely for it.
We bring home another stack of carpet pieces, outdated samples and remnants too short to sell, different-colored, different-styled, different-lengthed, and different-piled, and Mama gets down to it. She cuts the squares precise, the colors blending against the mortar and brick under the woodstove, against the frame of the door, and she mumbles through the nails she holds in her lips, murmurs about this green and that yellow while she hammers them in, and never after that does she ask for my help or advice, and I don’t offer anyway, and as the paydays roll past, our wall-to-wall becomes a reality.
Six pay stubs later and our living room is carpeted in the brightest blues, golds, and violets, patterned and deep. As she’s packing up her tools, Mama is all smiles and says, “See if you can pick a favorite, R.D. I bet you can’t.” I don’t think to question this until I walk across it in bare feet, sink into the plush of this square and that. I don’t think to question this until I imagine doing it myself, deciding what goes with which and making it permanent, believing in my choices enough to pound them with a hammer. (196)