Two weeks ago Rochelle had an awful day, and it got worse. She called me and said her car wouldn’t start; could I please pick her up from work. Usually that means a dead battery, but I knew she had recently bought a new one. She had gone to work in daylight so she couldn’t have left her lights on. Rochelle works near where she lives, and it isn’t far from my house. We first stopped by a convenience store so she could buy a money order for her rent. It was the first of the month, and there are steep fines for paying late. I dropped her at her apartment and told her I would see her the next day for our weekly interview. I wished her good luck with her car.
“Yesterday was the worstest day,” she told me when she came in the door for her interview the next day. I don’t correct Rochelle’s English because I would be correcting her all the time, and that would stress our relationship. I think I will correct her the next time she uses “worstest,” however. She uses it a lot, and I think it is such a stigmatized term that it could alter people’s judgements of her. Her daily life can be hard. She had found someone to jumpstart her car so it was running, but now she had another problem. Rochelle had been called by her elder daughter’s afterschool care teacher because her daughter, Kalinda, had been in a fight with another girl. Kalinda was now suspended from the afterschool care program at least for the rest of the week. Rochelle was concerned that she might be suspended for the rest of the year. She had called the teacher and was now waiting to see what was going to happen. During the week her work was scheduling her so she could be off in time to pick up her children from afterschool care. She would have to cut her hours if she didn’t have Kalinda in afterschool care.
“I’m going to pull her out of that school. It’s too rough,” Rochelle told me. I told her it took two people to have a fight and suggested perhaps Kalinda should have gone to the teacher if the other girl had started the fight. “What is she supposed to do, just stand there and get beat up?” Rochelle responded. She now had a possible child care crisis and a car whose new battery had died, though she had no idea why. Both problems could cost her money she didn’t have.
I didn’t see Rochelle last week because I had gone to visit my sister, Jessie, for five days. When I got back home from my trip all Rochelle’s problems from her recent “worstest day” seemed to have been resolved, at least for now. The car had not been fixed properly when she had been in a wreck last April; her trunk could pop open a bit and leave the trunk light on, which drains her battery. Her daughter had received counseling from the teacher and from the school’s security person, as did the other girl in the fight, and they had to clean the cafeteria from 2:45 until 5:00 every day after school for two weeks. The teacher said suspending her permanently would cause more problems than it would solve, so she didn’t believe in doing that. I forgot to ask Rochelle if she was still going to move her daughter to a different school. The schools in her neighborhood get rougher as the children get older, and Kalinda had started junior high this school year. Rochelle had mentioned her concern about the junior high school before Kalinda started the school year.
The car will present more problems in the future, and school may not continue to go smoothly for Kalinda. Next year she will have to attend a different school, any way, because her current one is going to be all boys. Rochelle is really concerned about that because, she says, the new school, which will be all girls, will mix in some really tough girls from different neighborhoods. But for now, the car is running, and all three children are in afterschool care. Most problems are crises when one lives with so little money, and when there is no other adult to help shoulder the chronic difficulties of life. But Rochelle was happy these problems are resolved for now.