I stand here ironing

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I stand here ironing" is Tillie Olsen's masterpiece on strained mother-daughter relationship that was the result of a mother's inability to provide her daughter with enough love and tender care. The mother in this case wanted the best for her child and this is important in the story.


This process begins when she receives a note from the school counselor saying: "She's a youngster who needs help and whom I'm deeply interested in helping." Emily was a bright child as the mother recalls: "She was a beautiful baby. She blew shining bubbles of sound. She loved motion, loved light, loved color, and music and textures. She would lie on the floor in her blue overalls patting the surface so hard in ecstasy her hands and feet would blur. She was a miracle to me, but when she was eight months old I had to leave her daytimes with the woman downstairs to whom she was no miracle at all, for I worked or looked for work and for Emily's father who "could no longer endure" (he wrote in his good-bye note) "sharing want with us." (p. 9)
From this it becomes clear that the mother recognizes that she was unable to give Emily the attention she needed. When she says that Emily was a miracle to her but not to the woman downstairs, she reflects her guilt for having left her daughter in the care of someone who didn't or could not love her as much as she deserved. Emily has now turned into a woman who keeps much to herself. She doesn't like sharing her life with her mother because she has somehow come to accept that this is the kind of relationship she has with her mother. ...
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