Elizabeth Yokas is an adjunct faculty member in the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago. Elizabeth is a woman of great spirit and a strong social conscience; her work-in-progress excerpted below considers her various roles as orphaned daughter, mother, union supporter, and activist.
Elizabeth is the coordinator of CCC’s Summer Fiction Programs in Prague and Florence. When she’s in the states, though, her workspace is somewhat mobile.
Elizabeth: We have a home office space, where a desk and all of our books and papers are, but lately I’ve taken to writing in the kitchen. There’s always been something about kitchens and stories. Or is it just because it’s closest to the coffee pot?
An excerpt from “We All Came to Madison,” essay-in-progress on the Madison Protest and the Assault on Collective Bargaining Rights, by Elizabeth Yokas
Before I left my home in Chicago to join the protest in Madison, I ran my fingers over the Greek fisherman’s cap my dad wore when he drove a cab. The felt had pilled in the years since he’d worn it. He’d brush it so it looked neat and presentable. I also stuffed my late mom’s little black necktie, part of her Dominick’s work uniform, in my coat pocket. One of my lingering memories is of her in this uniform: black shoes, black apron, black pants, black tie, white blouse…
I’m not sure why I keep these mementos of my parents’ work. Why I reached for my mom’s crumpled up Dominick’s apron and necktie when my sister and I sorted through her belongings one day in the later part of last October. Maybe I snagged them because they were some of the last things my parents had actually touched. I recall the faint scent of Mom’s cologne lingering on that apron. How I buried my face in it and wept. There were a few spots on it perhaps from her last coffee break at the Starbucks, where she’d treat herself to a coffee or hot chocolate and a pastry.
The black apron, with the union pin stuck next to the Dominick’s logo, was uncharacteristically soiled –the last day she’d worked she’d come home not feeling well and tossed it at the foot of her bed. She never got around to washing it. A month later she was gone.