In or Out
In Mattie Michael's story, the first of the seven woman's stories Naylor chronicles in "The Women of Brewster Place", the reader meets Miss Eva. A strong, proud, "old yellow" woman, Miss Eva represents a stability that Mattie was desperately in need of as she wondered through the city that day with her child in her arms and no place to go. When Miss Eva appears from behind the fence, and offers her indefinite shelter and care, I could not help but be reminded of the Housekeeper in Wendt's "Black Rainbow"; "The young black woman, and the old yellow woman sat i the kitchen for hours, blending their lives so that what lay behind one and ahead of the other became indistinguishable."(34) Miss Eva's unexpected willingness to discuss her most inner secrets, "and without even realizing she was being questioned, Mattie found herself talking about things she had buried within her,"(34), is reminiscent of the Free Citizen and the Housekeeper, willingly, unabashadly, and seemingly unconciously sharing the stories of theri pasts with one another.
The connection that the two made ran deep, and lasted for the several years that Miss Eva was still alive and Mattie remained at the house. However, we begin to see that departing from reality and remaining in the safety of the haven of the house has its drawbacks, just as in "Black Rainbow". By precluding herself from the outside world, and thus avoiding danger, content with her surroundings in her home, Mattie missed out on crucial opporunities and experiences; it can be argued that her son mirrored that inexperience with trials and tribulations when he constantly retreated to the safe haven of his mother rather than facing his problems head on. When the Free Citizen left the house, he faced many trying situations, but the point is that he faced them, learned from them, and grew as a person, despite some of the serious consequences. I believe that that is the purpose of living in a city--to strive for the opportunities despite the face of adversity, rather than hiding from the inconvienances. Everyone can find that special place tucked in a nook of a city that serves as a personal cache from reality, and where you return to for support (just as Etta returned to Brewster Place to find Mattie waiting up for her). But you must balance that comfort and stability with unpredictability, the diversity of experienc--that is how a city makes us grow.