Ragpicker’s Daughter

Since the age of 24 I have lived for most of my adult life at a boarding school for children in the Adirondacks. However I have not worked at the school now for four years. In the life of a school, four years is forever. The daily business of the school spins so quickly it creates a centrifugal force; you’re either on the inside of the vortex, or you’re spun out. I’m out. Most of the current students and many of the new staff don’t even know who I am.

It’s an odd feeling, being a stranger on the place, when I know every seam in the floors and bump in the walls.

Last year Lucy told me that someone had mentioned my name in a classroom and a child had inquired, “Who is that?”

The teacher answered, “Oh, you know — she’s the lady who drives the truck with the stake rack!”

Hmm, I thought. There’s an identity!

Last week apparently the question came up again. This time Larry, a different teacher, explained, “Oh, you’ve seen her. She’s Lucy’s mom. She drives a truck and she always wears Carhartts.” He paused thoughtfully and then corrected himself. “Well, really, they’re Carhartt rags.”

It’s true that most of the patches I sewed on my coveralls last year have now rotted off and the stuffing is poking out from various rips and frays. I don’t tend to pay much attention to such things.

However, on hearing of Larry’s remark I remembered my mother saying when I was a little girl: “I can’t have you looking like a ragpicker’s child.” Apparently dear Lucy is now the ragpicker’s daughter.

She never complains — but it may be time to retire this pair of coveralls.

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