This is Pearl
Pearl was sitting on a bench in Verdi Park, staring at a couple of lottery tickets she had in her hand. She would look away, shake her head and look again as if it might change. She did this for a few minutes, but no matter how many times she did so, nothing changed. I commented "it looks like you don't have a winner there." She laughed and said $10 dollars. Then she added, "they don't put anything on here, do they?"
Pearl does not consider herself a New Yorker. She is from Georgia but has lived on 110th Street since 1963. I pointed out that living in the city since 1963 makes her a New Yorker. She laughed.
Peral is 76 years old and retired as a home health aide about 10 years ago. She is the youngest of 10 children and only she and her brother are still alive. Her brother is living in a facility in Georgia and she has not seen nor spoken to him in over 20 years.
She grew up in a very small rural town in Georgia and wanted to move away from the Jim Crow South. And she left that small Southern town as soon as she finished high school at the age of 17. She loved the city when she arrived. She was a live-in aide for a family for the first 10 years, and when that job ended, she took another live-in job in New Rochelle, New York. That, too, was a long-term job that lasted for 8 years. She said the family still maintains contact with her-she still gets Christmas cards and presents on her birthday. She returned to Manhattan because she was in a relationship with a man who lived in the city and eventually married. He worked in construction and passed away 8 years ago.
Pearl is not happy living in the city. New York was beautiful when she first arrived, but now it is filthy and unsafe.
Pearl survives on social security, a small pension from her husband's work, and a pension she earned as an aide through the 1199 Union. She said it has been financially very difficult to manage - everything is so expensive. She is now seriously considering going back to work, especially since she hasn't managed to win more than $10 dollars playing the lottery. She feels her life was more fulfilled when she worked, and it gave meaning to her days and weeks. She needs the money and she needs the activity. She lives alone and doesn't get out very much at all. Pearl would like to earn enough money so she can return to Georgia.
Pearl is getting old, but not getting out very much. She longs for the old New York City of her youth. Working and winning the lottery is in her future, as is returning to a different Georgia from the one she left.