Saturday, June 30, 2007
When I was just a little girl, maybe age 7 or so, I would walk down the street to the old folks home. I walked my dolls with me in the pram. The old ladies there had time to play dolls with me. One old lady, Mary was beautiful, I can remember everything about her so clearly to this day. Snow white hair, pinned up in a neat bun, eyes so blue they looked like the summer sky. She was Irish and had a brogue so clear and sweet and a voice much younger than her years. When I look back on my about daily visits with Mary, I am not sure if she had her mind or not, she pretended or thought my dolls were real babies, whichever, it was lovely for me to sit next to her on the giant porch, where she would rock my dolls, hold them up and make them do the jig while she sang Irish songs, one after another. Its no wonder I love Irish music.
I am pretty sure she knew what was real and what wasn't if I think about it, she was just kind and played dolls with me. No doubt she was lonely. I was being neighborly even at age 7 and visiting the old folk. Mary took me inside one day to meet some of the ladies that were bed fast. One lady had on heavy cotton stockings that made her look like a partial rag doll to me. Her legs looked just like a cloth dolls legs. When Mary and I went back outside I asked her if that lady was part doll and Mary wisely told me that this woman was so sweet and kind that she was a living doll. I was content with that explanation.
On the way to the old folks home, I passed 7 houses. I can still name the families and tell you something about them. The neighborhood has changed, no one still lives there. The old folks home is now a Tibetan Buddhist Center, The Dalai Lama was there a couple years ago. I couldn't go, even though I was invited.
The house next to the once old folks home was another place I stopped at as a child. The woman of the house would see me coming up the road and call to me. It was time for her to feed her Koi fish every time I walked by and she asked me if I would like to help. She no doubt saved the task just for me. I loved feeding the fish. She also had a huge chestnut tree in the yard and would let me gather chestnuts to my hearts content. One day I gave my grandmother a big shinny chestnut, a gift from me to her and she said it was going to be her lucky chestnut and put it in her purse. Many years later at her death, my sisters and I were going through her things and in her purse was a withered shinny chestnut. She had kept it all those years and no I have it, a 45 year old chestnut.
Teaching our children to be neighborly and friendly is still possible. We may have a few more cautions these days to teach them but we can set examples. I went for coffee with my mother to her friend Marys house, sitting like a little lady, sipping coffee milk in a demitasse cup from the time I was 4 years old. I don't think we are happier in this society for shutting ourselves up in our rooms to "chat" on line. We need real friendships too.
In the pictures above, my great grandparents sit at a Cafe in Cuba in the 1920's, visiting with friends, who are not in this picture, but in others. In the second picture, my grandmother is between her mother on the left and a neighbor on the right. Neighbors were important enough to be included in photos.
In the bottom picture, my sisters, my cousins, and yes two neighbors. I am bent over whispering to the neighbor !
Just think about the books so many of us love, neighbors play a big role in the Alcott books, the Anne of Green Gables books, and of course the Little House on the Prairie series and even in the more modern stories like The Mitford Series.
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