detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Tuesday, August 06, 2002


: . Labor and Love:

From the short story Coins by Mona Simpson:
    When I started with Richard, Dee said, I'm not going to tell you how to love, because either that will happen or it won't. And in six jobs, twenty-five years, she said, only once did it happen to her. And then you need to quit. Because you cannot do the job if you do not love the baby.
    But children, they are easy to love. Especially if you have them from a baby. Ricardo, they put him in my hands the first day at the hospital. They gave him to me.
    Call me Lola, I whispered. That will be my name for you. (I was two years in America, I had been only a housekeeper. He is my first baby here.)
    For me it is the parents who are more hard to love.

    No, Dee said, at the beginning, I will not tell you how to love. I wouldn't if I could, because what I would tell you if I knew would be how not to so much. Because you will love him the same as your own and he never will. They love you, but it is not the same.
    "I know, I know," I told her then. "I am a mother, too."
    But now I think, if you can keep them until they are five, then they will not forget you. I ask Ricardo, "Will you remember your Lola?"
    "Why? You are not going away," he says.
    "Some day," I tell him, "I will return to my place."
    "And what will you do there?"
    I will just sit in my house. Look at my kid's diplomas.


Coins can be found in the August 2002 issue of Harper's Magazine. Here is the first half of the story. (If there are any typographical errors please let me know so I could correct them.) I will post the next half in two days. I've linked to this before but for those impatient with how the story turns out, you can listen to a reading of it here. The story appears to be a chapter/excerpt from Simpson's forthcoming novel My Hollywood, a work that "attempts to locate the small town within a larger-than-life setting...and while it encompasses some 'movie people,' its prime real estate belongs to the baby sitters and other hired helpers into whose care they commend what they prize most." More later.

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