Down on the Strike Line with My Children

I'm down on the strike line with my children on a Sunday afternoon. The ten year old and his eight year old friend feel quite official as they take turns carryin a picket sign between them, marchin on the sidewalk in a ritual style.

Two women in their forties stop to take the leaflets and ask directions to another store. Another woman asks where she and her mother should go to buy a bike for her daughter's birthday.

Some people slow down to take leaflets before they turn into the store to shop for cassette tapes, men's thongs, mouthwash, or garden hose.

Most people look straight ahead at the doors of the store as they approach and pass our picket lines. The kids are confused and ask why these people walk past us, can't they read?

I tell them, maybe these people have a disease and we're invisible to them. You know, kinda like color blindness, only when you have class blindness you can't see workers, you can only see things like waffle irons and Winnebagos.

Or maybe they've had an operation so like is now like a game show where you compete for prizes against other workers. This operation is called a lobotomy.

After a half hour the thrill of marchin is gone so the kids now fight over who has to carry the sign. A man in his sixties pulls up [to] the curb in an old Pontiac. He wants to give each of the youngsters a quarter for a soda. He's a retired longshoreman.

Last spring I stood down on the docks with the longshore workers. I was sevn months pregnant on the first day of the strike. I stood with a picket sign in the cold bay breeze, my back to a parking space. A man from management in a blue Toyota pick-up drove toward me and rolled his truck into my back, bumping me forward off balance.

That day I thought about my woman friend Sandra who as six months was kicked into unconsciousness at a civil rights march. Her baby was stillborn.

But today the retired longshoreman is pullin out of his worn wallet a quarter for my ten year old, a quarter for the eight year old, and a quarter for my five month old in the stroller.

I'm down on the stirke line with my children and we are not invisible to each other, to those who won't cross our lines, or to those who pass by us.

:: Donna Langston, in Calling Home: Working Class Women's Writings (edited by Janet Zandy, 1990)

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