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There were good things like ice cream cones, and trying to keep houses clean, and your mother bringing you to Mary’s house wrapped in a blanket, so you could watch cartoons and dream your cartoon dreams.
When I was a child, I occasionally went to visit an elderly relative in a nursing home. While my relative would be familiar to me, I have to admit that the other patients were pretty scary. This is part of the premise of Scott McClanahan’s “Mary, the Cleaning Lady”. A young Scott gets dropped off at Mary’s house by his mother when she goes to work. Mary goes to work, also, to clean houses and brings Scott along. McClanahan manages to put all the fears and pleasures of childhood into this small story.
Of the stories I’ve read so far in the anthology Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia edited by Charles Dodd White and Page Seay, I’d say this is my favorite. I haven’t read anything else by Scott McClanahan but based on what I’ve seen on Amazon.com, he is a native of West Virginia and his work appears to have been published by small independent publishing companies. I wouldn’t mind exploring more of his work.
For Week 11, I’m reading another story with a Mary in the title: Wendell Berry’s “A Jonquil for Mary Penn”.
What stories about childhood have you read? Which ones would you recommend?