“What will you and Stan do after the baby is born? I am afraid you will not be able to stay here next year.”
“I understand,” Rosa answered. “We are saving for a house. I know how to sew and I intend to sew dresses for the rich ladies.”
“Hmmm,” Mrs. Petroski thought to herself. But she had no idea of the quality of Rosa’s work, nor of the speed at which Rosa could produce a garment.
“Mrs. Petroski,” Rosa said one morning while she and her landlady hung laundry on the sagging rope in the backyard of the house she and Stan were renting, “what is a gopher?”
“Ah, that is a small rodent.”
“And what is a foot ball?”
“A what?” Mrs. Petroski asked.
“A foot ball. I heard someone on the streetcar say he was excited because these gophers were to be in a conference with some other gophers in the fall.”
After a few moments, Mrs. Petroski started laughing. “Oh, my dear,” she said, “I often forget that American ways are strange to people who have come only recently. Football is a game,” she said. She went on to explain who the Minnesota Gophers were and that they probably would win a conference..all of which confused Rosalia even more.
Rosalia shook her head and pushed wooden clothespins down even harder on the corners of the heavy cotton sheets she had just washed. A mild tremor crawled up her now huge belly.
“That baby of yours is about to be born, no?” Mrs. Petroski asked as she looked down at Rosa’s stomach. “About maybe two more weeks, perhaps.”
Rosa said nothing. In Poland her mother would have delivered her baby. But she had no close family in Minneapolis.
Shyly, Rosa asked Mrs. Petroski if she knew any midwives.
Mrs. Petroski’s observation was remarkably accurate; sure enough, Rosa goes into labor on June 17. A pre-arranged knocking on the floor with a broom lets Mrs. Petroski know it is time to walk the few blocks for the midwife.
Rosa waves a shaking hand at Stan who, in accordance with church laws, goes to church. But when he comes home again and discovers that Rosa is still in the spasms of labor, he climbs down the duplex steps and sits on the edge of the the wooden porch. He listens as Rosa’s moans becomes screams. And he is frightened.