It is pretty amazing that our neighborhood has been so stable in its inhabitants. It seems that hardly anyone stays in one place anymore, to borrow a lyric from that old Carole King song.
Except this week. Our neighbor of twenty-seven years, left us for another world.
|A younger version of our Mrs. O'D|
I am not sure how long Mrs. O'D had lived in her house, but it had to be at least fifty years. It is a modest house; lovely flower gardens in front, not too showy, but all of the old fashion varieties blooming along the walk. Out back are vegetable gardens that have produced the herbs and tomatoes she so generously shared with us every summer.
She must have taken early morning walks, because when I would arise and go out to retrieve the paper, (back in the days when there still was a paper to retrieve) on my front porch would be several tomatoes and a copy or two of the Yankee Magazine. While she had lived in the Midwest for more then half of her life, I think, she still considered herself a New England girl at heart.
|Not her house, but very similar|
Her quiet, unassuming way made it possible for others to accept her help, for she never, ever mentioned that she gave it or that you needed it.
My husband worked long hours and traveled frequently while our children were young. Often, I would hear a quiet knock on the front screen door and a little "You-hoo! Would anyone like me to read a story to them tonight?"
The four children would race to the door, eager to let her in and choose a story for her to read to them. She never complained about how long the story was or how many questions about the pictures or anything. And frankly, she always seemed to arrive, just when I thought all was lost. How she knew, at the time I could not tell, but I was so glad to see her.
Mrs. O' D was widowed when her oldest child was only fourteen and the youngest was six. There were three in between. She often worked multiple jobs to keep the mortgage paid, as well as the rest of life's expenses. She did not speak of it often or if she did, it was without ranker or self-pity. She just did it.
|Pretty exciting, in certain situations...|
When our youngest was so very ill, she would come and "ask out" our third child. Mrs. O' D would inquire of our daughter; "What would you like to do?"
Of course, this little girl, lost in the shuffle of visiting nurses and hospital stays, was so happy to have a friend. That sweet little girl's desire? To ride an escalator. Something she had only heard about, but never had seen.*
Mrs. O'D took her to ride an escalator. For two hours. Just up and down and back up again; with this lonely, darling child.
In this day and age of "purchased entertainment", I often think of the day Mrs. O' D rode the escalator with a sad, frightened four year old girl, and gave her the gift of quiet acceptance and adventure all rolled up in a ride on an escalator.
*I had never taken our children to a mall, partly because I as outnumbered and partly because the return on investment was so very low.