…and the Livin’ Is Easy”
The lyrics of the classic blues song are haunting: “It’s summertime and the living is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high. Your Daddy’s rich and your Mama’s good-looking…Now, hush little baby. Don’t you cry.”
I heard it every day…often, several times a day, from a young woman who sat in the porch area at the end of the floor of the Adolf Mayer Building (admittance) at the IMH (Institute for Mental Health), in Cranston where I worked for two summers when I was 17 and 18. She never spoke, just stared out through the bars, humming that tune, and I wondered what she thought about…or even if she thought about anything in particular. I never saw her engage with other patients, either. She remained locked in her own world, both physically and mentally.
Every week her handsome husband came to take her out for a home visit (they had two small children) and I wondered how that went. He’d smooth her blonde hair back from her forehead and coax her to stand up from the rocker, as he guided her away toward the exit door of the ward. Perhaps on those visits he hoped to jar her out of her catatonic state by exposing her to the familiar. If so, it never worked.
She’d be back, hours later, rocking on her chair on the porch, humming the tune, softly singing the lyrics, locked in her world. A young, attractive, mother and wife.
It’s amazing that this woman had such an impact on me, throughout my life, for each time I hear this classic song, I think of her. I even used to sing it to my babies, to comfort them, as I rocked them when they were in distress. And I think at least one of my daughters sings it to her own babies, today.
Just a tiny measure of how we impact one another in this world.
Listen to it done by the inimitable Ella Fitzgerald….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKSq_gmfe40
***Art by Anita Phillips