I stand here ironing, and what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron.
— from “I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen (b. 1913)
I remember reading this short story for a college class and not being overly impressed. Now, after three children, this story strikes home. It’s the story of a mother of five recalling her life, and especially the life of her first-born, a girl, now age 19. Someone has asked the mother to help her understand the daughter so she can help her. This is a mother story. Probably, you can’t fully understand it if you aren’t a mother yourself. So many complicated emotions and ties between mother and child. So much space between the two, yet so much intimacy. This story fleshes out that paradox. I might move this up to number two in my rankings of favorite stories. “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett is still at number one.