What is the only thing that Stella Rondo's daugther could say in "Why I Live at the P.O."?  

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stella-Ronda’s daughter could only sing “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” and say "Papa."

Stella-Ronda insists that her daughter Shirley-T, who looks like Shirley Temple, is adopted.  Their mother is upset because Stella-Ronda, who recently left her husband, did not tell them that she had a child.

She says, "Why, Mama, Shirley-T.'s adopted, I can prove it."
 "How?" says Mama, but all I says was, "H'm!" 

Stella-Ronda is constantly trying to defend herself and her daughter.  The narrator whispers to her mother that she wonders if the child can talk.  When their mother asks if Shirley-T can talk, Stella-Ronda insists that she can.  Nonetheless, the child does not say a word, until she finally bursts out into song.

And in a minute the loudest Yankee voice I ever heard in my life yells out, "OE'm Pop-OE the Sailor-r-r-r Ma-a-an!" and then somebody jumps up and down in the upstairs hall.

Stella-Ronda insists that not only can she sing, she can dance.  She gets angry at her sister for questioning whether Shirley-T could talk, and the narrator says she didn’t mean anything by it, but she just wanted to know if the child was normal.  She is indignant because her sister is upset because she thought her sister was insulting the child.  Later, Shirley-T calls Uncle Rondo “Papa.”

Shirley-T is the biggest source of tension for the family, because everyone but the narrator is willing to accept that she adopted, and the narrator knows that her sister had an affair with her husband before they were married, and Shirley-T was the product.  This is important to the narrator because she thinks her sister stole her boyfriend, married him, and then left him.