For Mary Lou: How to Care for a Troubled Household

1.  Put on your shirtdress, knee-high hose and loafers. Cover your head with a plastic rain bonnet. The bus ride from your home to theirs is long.

2.  Upon arriving, shoo the cats out of the house. The five-year-old girl will tug at your dress; keep her behind you, casually checking each room to make sure the mother hasn’t committed suicide.

3.  Teach the girl to tie her shoes. Tell the bunny story. Yes, that one: make a rabbit ear, chase it around the tree, dive into the hole.

4.  Unfold the ironing board. Sprinkle the father’s shirts with water, roll them up. Unroll and iron. You and the little girl sing with the Supremes on the radio; the iron cackles and spits.

5.  Sweep, wash the windows, do dishes, dust, wax.

6.  If the father has disappeared, you are in charge. The mother is locked in her room; children must be fed. You won’t get paid for the extra hours, but Lord Jesus will know.

7.  Keep an eye on the eldest son, the one who has brain troubles. If he is outdoors alone, holler out the back porch, ring the triangle. Bullies are in the fields, waiting.

8.  Count the children; there should be five. Start them on homework; put the little one to bed.

9.  Take the bus home to your lonely son and liquored husband.

10.  Sing “Try Me One More Time” in your sleep. Angels hover and kiss your temples. You are loved.


- Meg Galipault's publishing experience includes serving as managing editor of the Kenyon Review and executive editor of dialogue: voicing the arts, a nonprofit magazine covering the visual arts in the Midwest. She is a contributing editor for yeah write and has a blog called Pigspittle Ohio. Meg earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University. She lives with her husband and cats in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

You can find Meg's companion essay to this piece over on our noteworthy blog, here.