Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 595
Although Land had not grown up wealthy, she had grown accustomed to thinking of herself as middle class. She had not fully understood the relationship between class (as a social status) and income. As long as she had enough to cover her expenses and occasionally set aside a few dollars,...
(The entire section contains 595 words.)
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Although Land had not grown up wealthy, she had grown accustomed to thinking of herself as middle class. She had not fully understood the relationship between class (as a social status) and income. As long as she had enough to cover her expenses and occasionally set aside a few dollars, she assumed that she was doing fine. This attitude changed after she became a mother and her partner proved unwilling to be responsible toward his daughter. She thus engages in an endless quest to connect with the resources they need immediately and in the short term:
[The] calendar . . . was filled with appointments with caseworkers at organizations where I could get us help. I had looked under every stone, peered through the window of every government assistance building, and joined the long lines of people who carried haphazard folders of paperwork to prove they didn't have much money. I was overwhelmed by how much work it took to prove I was poor.
The constant interactions with social services—as she tried to find better accommodations than the shelter—eventually yielded results. Stephanie and her daughter, Mia, were able to move into transitional housing in a modest apartment building filled with others in similar situations. Her caseworker told her she was lucky to get the apartment:
[M]y thoughts were stuck on when she called me lucky. I didn’t feel lucky. Grateful, yes. Definitely. But having luck, no. Not when I was moving into a place with rules that suggested that I was an addict, dirty, or just so messed up that I needed an enforced curfew and pee tests. Being poor, living in poverty, seemed a lot like probation—the crime being a lack of means to survive.
Land had always dreamed of becoming a writer. She recalls the stories she wrote as a child and the countless novels she had started, as well as the feeling of friendship she had toward books. Before she learned that she was pregnant, she had planned to apply to study creative writing at the University of Montana. Part of this dream was due to the mountain setting and the connection it had with one of her favorite writers. Deciding to have the baby and raise it on her own immediately derails that dream:
I imagined myself inside the photos [on the university's publicity materials], walking through the pastoral landscapes somewhere beneath the quotes from Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, "... but with Montana it is love...."
Once she had made the decision to focus on house-cleaning work, she considered part of that transition to be changing the way that she thought about herself: considering herself as a maid rather than as a future student and an aspiring writer. In the beginning, she tried to hold onto her plans and to consider them as merely deferred; eventually, she starts to see the plans as a fantasy.
Part of the paradox she raises is her increasing alienation from her clients' way of life—including many components to which she had previously aspired—and she starts to engage in personal criticisms. She finds herself wondering what causes dissatisfaction when material requirements have been fulfilled:
Living with illness or pain was part of my daily life. But why did my clients have these problems? It seemed like access to healthy foods, gym memberships, doctors and all of that would keep a person fit and well. Maybe the stress of keeping up a two-story house, a bad marriage, and maintaining the illusion of grandeur overwhelmed their systems in similar ways to how poverty did mine.