Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Friends and Neighbours..........."

we live in a neighbourhood that is full of students from the nearby university.
when a house goes on the market it is snapped up by an enterprising landlord who turns it into student housing.
the student houses are easy to spot. pizza boxes in the recycling boxes, couches on the front porches, beer bottles on the windowsills, canadian flags or beer signs on the walls inside, and many cars in the driveways.
they ignore me because they are 'just passing through' i suppose.
it's not the kind of neighbourhood where you know your neighbours.

one summer's day, i met an old lady who has a big house on a street running off mine. i can see it from my window.
it's a neat and tidy house, and through the window you can see the back of her couch where a cloth cat sits.
i had to look several times before i saw that it wasn't a real cat.
i was walking my grandson in his stroller and she was on her driveway.
she had just got out of her white car and it took her an awful long time to walk around the driveway to get to her house.
she looked pretty old and frail.
i was surprised that she could drive.
we stopped to chat.
she asked me about my grandson and i told her how old he was.
she told me her name was jessie and that she was 91!
she was as sharp as a tack.
she told me she had moved into her house the same day as kennedy was shot.
if you belong to a particular agegroup you will always remember where you were when certain people died; kennedy, elvis, john lennon.
i was 9 and i was going home from the local playground when i heard about kennedy.
as jessie and i talked i stopped to think that on that day as i was going home from the playground, so young and carefree, a president on another continent was shot and killed, and this little old lady, who was then younger than i am now, was moving into her brand new home.

there was an invisible thread connecting us if you like.
i could specifically pinpoint three things that we all did that day.

she asked me about our house and said she liked what my husband had done to it.
she told me about some of the other neighbours she knew, most of whom have now moved on.
she asked me about my daughter with the long black hair and the knee high boots.
i told her that was my daughter in law, not my daughter.
she had seen her dropping off my grandson before she went to work in the mornings.
and that was it.

about two years have gone by and we never did have another conversation.
i rarely walked by her house and if i did we never happened to bump into each other.
i always looked at her window with the cloth cat sitting on the back of her couch.
perhaps she was in there looking out and thinking to herself, 'there's that nice lady from across the street'.
i would smile.
just in case.

as is sometimes the way, our paths never crossed again.
but once or twice if i was on my front porch and she was on hers we waved to each other, from a distance.
her house is empty now.
i didn't see her go.
i saw a van pull up one day not that long ago and the driver went in and shortly after came out carrying some bags and boxes which he put in the back of the van.
he didn't look like he was visiting.
the next week the same van came back again and the driver did the same thing.
last week he came back and put some garbage out on the curb.
the cloth cat is still sitting.
the lights never go on.
her white car is never in the driveway.
jessie would be 93.
i don't think she's coming back.
i wonder who will move into her house?
i expect it will be more students.
who can't remember president kennedy.
who never knew elvis,
or john lennon.

or jessie.


clinka said...

lovely and sad. i remember feeling so special that she had noticed me when you told me about her.

Clippy Mat said...

i know. i thought it was neat that she had noticed the details about you. :-)

Jan said...

so very true m'dear. I remember exactly where i was that particular day too, on my way to Broadbents chippy in Rosehill- do you recall? not too far from St.Aidan's
Jan x

clippy mat said...

Jan, Broadbents chippy? I do. I do. I'll have six pennorth with batter and dont' forget the salt and vinegar.