I miss my friend Miss Allie---she and her husband have been our friends for all the years we’ve lived in this house. We were fence-neighbors and garden neighbors and “try this cake” neighbors for about seven years, and since he passed away, she’s been away quite frequently, and now, when I walk past, there are usually no lights on, not even on her neat porch, with its lovely wicker chairs and urns of flowers.
They were a lovely older couple, he courtly and a gentleman in speech and aspect, she a tiny round woman with a winning twinkle and easy laugh. My son passed gardening tips with Mr. Vergil, and they swapped things over the fence---a handful of herbs, a crisp fat cabbage, some pattypans, a few sugar-snaps for munching whilst they talked. And tomatoes---how they both prized their tomatoes!! That was back when we planted ours in the garden circle, before we knew of the hazard of the big walnut tree.
They’d each take a little “flat” or bucket to the fence, and expound the virtues of this heirloom and that beefsteak and the other Earlys and Bigs and Romas. From time to time, you could see one or the other lean WAY forward to take a bite, avoiding the gush of rich juice from the bitten tomato. They'd sample and nod and click out the Barlow and try another--- why, everyone knows that rubbing one cheek of a tomato or apple down your shirtfront renders all germs harmless.
And by the time they’d finished, they each had every one of the other’s tomatoes in his bucket, ready to take them home and try. It was like some kind of McGregor magic---I don’t know quite how they kept up and swapped hands like that.
They attended Son’s wedding, the party to celebrate DDIL’s Master’s, shrimp boils in the backyard, a little sunset tea on the lawn, cookouts, a birthday or two. They grew slower and feebler, and we’d ride round the block and pick them up. We’ve just had the easiest little friendship, like good neighbors should.
And Wednesday, with all still a bit snow-covered save for the sidewalks, the temperatures rose to a comfortable level for a walk. So Our Girl and I set out, I in an unaccustomed jacket and slacks, she in a bright pink hoodie-coat, kneeboots and her “Elmo”---a little Velcro vest with a leash on the back. She’s not QUITE to the “STOP!” stage when I say so, and I know that if she ever got a REAL headstart toward the street, I’d regret it.
We walked around several blocks, going up the front ramp to Miss Allie's house; I hadn't seen her all Winter, and hoped that a nurse would not meet me saying she was sleeping, or that I'd find that she had gone into a nursing home. Loud barks from little Chipper, almost as old as his mistress, with him peeking out between the heavy iron scrollwork in the big security door. She answered the door herself, and she looked marvelous, with a freshly-done hairdo to rival the one Ann Landers sported for so long in the newspaper---that sorta sailboat side-flip that might loft a lesser woman into the next precinct.
I said, "Miss Allie, you must have just come from the beauty parlor," and she allowed as how her son-in-law and two grandsons were in town on business and had asked her out to dinner. She leaned close, whispered conspiratorially, "And I JUST MIGHT go."
They drove up as we walked back down the ramp to continue our blocks of sightseeing.
"You order something really expensive and say I told you to," I departed. I SO hope she did.