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Rayona gave me something to be, made me like other women with children. I was nobody’s regular daughter, nobody’s sister, usually nobody’s wife, but I was her mother full time.
Christine and Rayona leave the reservation, and Christine takes her time driving home. They get back to Seattle on a Saturday night and Christine wants to go out but cannot find a babysitter. Undeterred, Christine takes Rayona along with her to the Silver Bullet, her usual bar. There, Christine sees Elgin with his arm around a fat woman. Christine catches Elgin’s eye, and he comes over to talk. They end up going home together, and Elgin stays for two weeks.
Elgin continues to disappear and reappear in Christine’s life, and she takes him back every time. She has other boyfriends, along with friends and jobs, but the only constant in her life is Rayona. Rayona is a very independent child and does things for herself whenever she can.
One day Aunt Ida calls to let Christine know that she is in town and will be staying over. Ida’s aunt, Clara, is sick and staying at Indian Health Services. Rayona does not remember Ida so Christine tries to describe her. When Ida arrives, Rayona acts shy for the first time in her life. Ida makes a point of commenting on Christine’s conspicuous lack of a husband but is kind to Rayona and even brings a doll for her. That Saturday Ida makes Christine and Rayona accompany her on the bus to Indian Health Services. When they arrive, Ida introduces Christine and Rayona—but especially Rayona—to all the elderly Indians who are waiting around. Clara is glad to see her family, especially Christine, but before long Ida decides it is time for them to leave. Though Christine promises Clara she will come back to the hospital for a longer visit, Clara dies before Christine gets a chance. Ida decides she wants to go back to the reservation, but Christine persuades her to stay for dinner. Ida insists on making most of the dinner herself. When Rayona calls Ida “Grandma,” Ida corrects her and tells her to call her “Aunt Ida.” Rayona is offended and leaves the kitchen.
Elgin shows up the next day, and promises to be there whenever Christine needs him. In raising Rayona, Christine tries to do a better job than Ida did with her, and for the most part she feels she accomplishes this goal. She gets very angry when Elgin disappoints Rayona by not being around. She loves Rayona but knows she will never have another child. She cannot have Rayona end up the way she did, forgotten because of Lee. She never feels the same as she had that day at Point Defiance, not with Elgin or anyone else.
As Christine realizes that being a wife and mother is not enough to solve her problems, she reverts to her old habits and begins to lose control of her life. She does not want anyone other than Elgin but cannot live with him for more than a few weeks at a time. This realization makes her steely and jaded, so she does “what it t[akes] to get by” by going out and meeting new boyfriends. She returns to the more volatile lifestyle she embraces when she first goes to Seattle. Even Rayona, who had anchored Christine to a stable life, becomes an accessory, a friend Christine can bring along to bars. Christine says that, in retrospect, at this point in her life she knew she was headed in the wrong direction but was too far out of control to see a solution. Indeed, we see her live such a fast-paced life that perspective is difficult for her to gain. The stability she experiences during her pregnancy is gone, as is anything resembling a committed marital relationship with Elgin, and her current instability is even worse than her experiences during her first few months in Seattle. Christine no longer seems to be searching for an identity, and views each new episode in her life as something to tide her over until her next encounter with Elgin.
Christine initially remembers very little about Clara, whom Ida has mentioned before, but never by name. When Christine and Rayona accompany Ida on her visit to the IHS, there is clearly some underlying tension between Ida and Clara, but Christine is unable to get at the root of the conflict. Clara is very glad to see Christine, but Ida cuts their interview short. We get the definite impression that Ida is somehow trying to keep Christine and Clara apart, and this moment foreshadows important revelations in Ida’s narrative.
A very interesting piece of writing. I recommend you check it out and this site as well
I thought I was good at writing essays all through freshman and sophomore year of high school but then in my junior year I got this awful teacher (I doubt you’re reading this, but screw you Mr. Murphy) He made us write research papers or literature analysis essays that were like 15 pages long. It was ridiculous. Anyway, I found
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