Author’s Note: This is a writing exercise using antique photographs. The following is an imaginary letter written by the woman in the picture.
It has taken me the entire month of this bitter cold February to fill my hand with the strength to write this letter to you. It is most likely a quarter past six as you are reading this letter and I am sure that your stomach is empty from your day at the mill.
I am afraid your stomach is not the only thing in this household that is feeling neglected. My capacity for the nonsense of this family has been exceeded and I will no longer be able to fulfill my wifely and motherly duties.
I wonder if this comes as a shock to you or if you saw this coming. Your actions suggest that you assumed things were as they should be. However, you come from a learned family and I find it hard to believe that the devilish escapades of our eleven children slipped past even your contented eyes.
I know that children will be children and some actions are no doubt unavoidable as our little ones grow, but the rash of ludicrous behavior that has taken over the household I work so hard to upkeep has forced me to take respite.
If you are recounting the past months and have come to no conclusion as to why I left, let me refresh your memory:
I receive great joy in laundering the clothes of my family; making sure my children are clean and presentable. I do not, however, receive any joy from being awoken in the middle of the night to Wyatt and Jonathan hurling their dirtied socks and under drawers atop of me crying “You better get to work now or these will never be cleaned in time.” It also displeases me to watch you pretend to be sleeping next to me as they use me and my bed space as their personal hamper. I have slept next to you for twenty years, and when your breathing becomes shallow I know you are awake.
I understand that you are a man and men are not familiar with the responsibilities of daughters in a household, but let me remind you: just because your daughter sheds a tear does not mean it is proper to give in to her every whim. It would not hurt you to support your wife, either. For example, I spent six hours of my day trying to instill Elizabeth, Mary and Elena with the values of being a respected woman of society. I was trying to teach them to mend their own clothes, cook family meals and upkeep a house. When you came home to your three teary-eyed daughters your comment “Don’t worry, your mother will take care of the chores” was not helpful in the least bit.
Furthermore, when I took in the stray cat, Mitzy, I finally found a creature in this world that showed me the affection I had been longing for. After my many scoldings Robert, Michael, Walter and Marty Jr. continued to terrorize the poor animal with the hose, clothes pins and chases (and God knows what else). Judging by the look on her face when I found her, I’m sure she died of fright. It took every ounce of strength I had to give that soul a proper burial, and save it from the “Kitty bon fire” that you so generously offered up to your malevolent sons.
Besides dealing with the antics of our older children, I have been rearing two little ones under the age of two. James and Charles are sweet babies, but between the feedings, changings and pacifying that must be done to ensure that you have happy, bouncing babies when you return home from work I have no time to care for my looks. I do the best that I can, and have bore you eleven children. Eleven. I filled with rage every time your calloused hands grasped the fat around my waist and I heard “Ho! Ho! Ho! If you didn’t look so ugly I’d think you were Santa!” Your children squealed with every delivery of the line, but a piece of me hardened with every jiggle of my belly.
It is because of this treatment and other actions that I have decided to leave the household in your hands. I may return after I rejuvenate my body and spirit. I may decide that the best action I can take to ensure our family’s safety is to never return. It is now time to prove to the men at the mill that you really do “run a tight ship.”
There are plenty of chickens in the pen and potatoes to peel in the basement. Marty Jr., Elena, and Robert prefer soup. The rest prefer casserole. We need milk for the babies. Mary needs her dress mended for church tomorrow and Charles has a stomach bug. I’ve left his soiled diaper cloths on your side of the bed.