Mavis Meeker was a flappy-clothes, tall lank lady who loved gossip---the one
who “sold out” from the Fund-Raiser Tea before scones, to get home to the phone when she heard that
old Mr. Halliburton got caught retrieving his hearing aid from the back seat of
a married lady’s car.
had a need-to-know like no one else in Paxton, and her curiosity grew with each
year of her inquiring life.She’d drive
out through the country roads, looking and scanning and taking note of who had
nice yards and who’d just had a dish installed and if the Covingtons' children were visiting.She’d go through an unfamiliar place, and would
turn around and come back down the road to see if she could see a name on the
other side of a mailbox, frowning and getting a grump on her face if she didn’t,
for she simply MUST know who lived where, even if she didn’t KNOW the who.
traded in “good works” in her information quest, walking an apronful of
tomatoes from her garden down the street to the house where a strange car had
been parked for several days, trying to peer around the door when it was
opened, to see if the Boyette girl had left her husband again and come back to stay with her Mama 'n'em.If ever a stranger or anyone in law
enforcement knocked on a neighbor’s door, she’d make sure
she was outside with some little chore so that she could hear or see whatever
happened, or she’d grab up a few flowers and take them innocently over just for
an excuse to hang around.
was the first to take a dish by the home of the bereaved, and also prefers to be
the first to view a corpse.She’s been
known to wait outside the funeral home in her car til they open the doors.She’d stand right by the casket, looking her
eyes full, and thenwould circle the
room like a name-dropper at a cocktail party, pronouncing how the departed
looked---from Natchrul to Peekid to They Did All They Could, with a sly peek at
the listeners for their reactions.Closed casket funerals put her off kilter for a week, not being able to
assess the make-up, or if they were wasted away and all.
first at the house the house after the news spread of the death was important,
so she could see “how they took it.” Folks in town swore that she had four cakes, two casseroles and a banana puddin’ on
hand at all times---no WAY she could whip up a dish that fast.
Evelyn Couch, inquiring after Ont Vesta in the nursing home, were as nosy as all get-out, and a tee-nincey bit on the obnoxious side, she’d have sounded
like Mavis Meeker.
Mavis would approach a lady, dozing in her wheelchair in the hall---the fact of
the lady’s being in Golden Years had, in Mavis’s mind, conferred an immediate
mantle of senility upon check-in.She
thought of them all as having been “committed,” as one would have been to
Whitfield, the moment they left their own abodes to live at “The Home.”
she visited them just the same, thinking that if any geriatric mind-mishap
might have dampened their filters, she could just ask anything about anybody,
and they’d give her the answer.If they
remembered it.Like where DID the Finch
girl go that time when she left school to travel Europe with her Aunt, or who
WAS it that Harliss McIntire was with up at Clarksdale that time Mac shot the tires
out on her Cadillac?
She’d arrive at
Golden Years, look up and down the halls for a likely victim, and home in.She wasn’t above going right in a door where
someone was sleeping, making herself at home, and rustling about a bit to wake
the unwary soul, and had no qualms about asking prying, pointed questions.Until Miss Martha Bridger, that is, who had never
had much of a filter to start with, and had taught sixth grade boys for enough
years to inure her to any inquiry, expletive, observation, or gesture.
Marthy!!” Mavis trumpeted, apparently also convinced that passing eighty rendered her victim deaf, “Do ye know who Aaah ayum?”
long, testy no-nonsense teacher-look from Miss Martha, and a little
complete-circle-like-clock-hands of her tight-pursed lips before she spoke.
known ye all yeh lahfe, Mavis, and ye habm’t improved.”
The TREE lost a great limb this week,
with the weight of the ice and snow in the past months bending it past
bearing.One morning we woke to see
the huge branch hanging from way up high, dangling implausibly from what looked
to be a four-inch-wide strip of bark---tee-nincy faraway twig-tips just twirling
against the garage roof far below.
And so we had to have the limb down,
with several other roof-scrapers removed in the process, leaving a gap between
limbs and house.That should make the
patio sunnier than usual for while, until all the green fills in.
I spend a while every day, looking up
into that gigantic, magical tree, which was one of the reasons we bought the
There’s just something about Spring
up here---in the South, I was accustomed to an EARLY Spring---even in February,
leaves and flowers were showing their little efforts, gently coming into their
own as the sun altered course and warmed them each day. The plants were rather
meditative, I thought, with a way of taking their time, swelling and growing
and just soaking up life from the ground and the sun.
A whole lush Summer of bloom and leaf stretched out, with a long-lasting Fall to
keep their course, and the bearing season was full and rich and long.
Up here, things seem to KNOW that the time will be short, and they just
sort of JUMP out of the ground, seeking the warmth and growing like mad. One
day, a glance at our own small circumscribed horizon around the yard reveals drab,
sere sticks with a far-view reaching through the angles.
Next day, the pale tint of green is a shadow on everything, and suddenly,
leaves are shusshing and the little ears are budding out and it's all making a
dash for its life, to absorb and swell and grow before the too-soon cold comes.
And I think the burst of this Indiana Spring can be seen almost in fast-motion---even
more rewarding, as it's nearly like fluttering the pages of a picture-book, to
see the images change color and form, with the little dog running through the
gate and home.
And standing with my neck cricked far-far back, looking up into the universe of
this great tree---that's like looking way far through a telescope into a world
not traveled yet.
couple of years ago, when Beverly of PINK SATURDAY and I were having our “decade”
birthdays, she suggested that I wear pink pedal pushers to my party, for old
times’ sake.I thought then of some
ladies who wore those exact pants, when they were in fashion and I was in my
teens. They were a wonderful bunch of teachers, who lived "at Mrs. Woods'" when I was growing up. I thought many thoughts over the years of how it might have been in that house of seven women, day after day---their gentle voices and small chores and comfortable friendship. They're a continuing set of chapters in PAXTON PEOPLE, and are composites of many folks I've known, even if only in my imagination.
of the residents was accorded her place, her time to wake and contemplate and
move into the day, as they came down in their dusters and hairnets, into the quiet
calm of Saturday morning.A few were already up and out, dressed in casual weekend pedal pushers and blouse or a culotte and cardigan,
descending the stairs in a muted burst of energy and waft of Emeraude or Wind
Song.Reaching for a cup and slipping a
quick piece of Wonder bread into the toaster, or choosing a piece of fruit from
the ever-supplied wooden bowl in the pass-through, they made a hasty breakfast,
and were off to the library, to Keene’s for nylons, to Breedlove’s for some
engraved note-cards, or on any other errands proscribed by the clock during the
took the morning as they found it, surrounding the breakfast table in the
sunroom like colorful birds as they gathered in their kimonos and robes and
caftans, gently rustling the paper and sharing bits of news over coffee and the
teapot, and letting time move without them. Miss Jones boiled an egg, Miss Omar made a ham-and-mustard sandwich, little Miss Hester ate her cornflakes with bananas on top.
Arithmetic and verbs had no place here, and the demands of the classroom
days slipped from them like shrugged-away coats.
were mostly for errands; afternoons, for little chores.A neatly-typed schedule hung on the wall
beside the washing machine, with a good leeway for two loads; everyone knew
exactly when it was rightfully WHOSE, and there was scrupulous adherence to the
buzzer, getting that load of clothes into the dryer or out so the next person
could have her turn.But the laundry and
the hair shampooing times were flexible, with those who opted for a lazy
morning at home getting a head start on one or the other, out of turn and who
of the two conveniently-ample water heaters served kitchen, laundry and Mrs.
Woods’ downstairs bath, with the other three bathrooms supplied by the second.And so several processes could be in
progress at once, with everyone comfortably supplied as the day went on.Such a scent of Halo and Conti and
Luster-Crème filled the house on Saturdays, along with Duz and Tide and Faultless
Starch, and rollers and pins and head-scarves were the dress of the day.
there was all the hair-rolling, usually done each-in-her-own-room, with each
one emerging in scarves or hairnets covering a skullcap of tiny white rosettes
of cigarette paper secured by bobby pins, or a mosaic of small silver clips,
and others resembling cloth helmets---the size depending on the diameter of the
Omar “did” her short bob daily---a quick shampoo and a finger-wave with several
of the crocodile-clips to hold it while it dried.
Shoe-polishing was done at any time, singly
or in groups, at a long, linoleum-covered
table in the sunroom---a sort of gathering place for the little task, with
everyone still in comfortable Saturday clothes, from slacks to Miss Hester’s
little gardening coverall to the lazy comfort of a duster-worn-to-breakfast.
in the hot days of Summer, Miss Wanamaker took advantage of the secluded,
hedged back yard to wash her own long hair with the hose, wearing halter top
and Bermudas, which not one of the ladies would have EVER worn out in public.She’d sit in the sun, gently brushing the
length of her shining mane, until it was just dry enough to roll the ends on
curlers, for she quite often had a date on Saturday evenings for dinner or a
movie or a party.And the time young Mr.
Harmon took Miss Wanamaker all the way to Memphis
to the Peabody
to go dancing at the Skyway---why, every lady in the house was as happy and
a-flutter as if they were each being called for by a prince, with a line of
carriages stretching out the gate.
was a comfort in that house, a neatly
kept, cushiony sort of feminine languor which napped the rooms like rich
veloute, giving even the brightest and most energetic of the ladies an extra grace of
movement and a restful air, with the slow confident ease of home and place and belonging.