jus’ live the day

“… Woman takin’ over the family. Woman sayin’ we’ll do this here, an’ we’ll go there. An’ I don’ even care.”

“Woman can change better’n a man,” Ma said soothingly. “Woman got all her life in her arms. Man got it all in his head. Don’ you mind. Maybe—well, maybe nex’ year we can get a place.”

“We got nothin’, now,” Pa said. “Comin’ a long time—no work, no crops. What we gonna do then? How we gonna git stuff to eat? An’ I tell you Rosaharn ain’t so far from due. Git so I hate to think. Go diggin’ back to a ol’ time to keep from thinking’. Seems like our life’s over an’ done.”

“No, it ain’t,” Ma smiled. “It ain’t, Pa. An that’s one more thing a woman knows. I noticed that. Man, he lives in jerks—baby born an’ a man dies, an’ that’s a jerk—gets a farm an’ loses his farm, an’ that’s a jerk. Woman, it’s all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it like that. We ain’t gonna die out. People is goin’ on—changin’ a little, maybe, but goin’ right on.”

“How can you tell?” Uncle John demanded. “What’s to keep everything from stoppin’; all the folks from jus’ gettin’ tired an’ layin’ down?”

Ma considered. She rubbed the shiny back of one hand with the other, pushed the fingers of her right hand between the fingers of her left. “Hard to say,” she said. “Ever’thing we do—seems to me is aimed right at goin’ on. Seems that way to me. Even gettin’ hungry—even bein’ sick; some die, but the rest is tougher. Jus’ try to live the day, jus’ the day.”

Uncle John said, “If only she didn’ die that time—”

“Jus’ live the day,” Ma said. “Don’ worry yaself.”

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: The Viking Press, 1939.


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