“Oh it’s nothing,” I mutter. “Just something I enjoy. I only took the flowers out of the vase and put them back in again.” Bitsy is wearing a brown tweed skirt, cream colored blouse, and navy blue Keds. I want her to leave me alone. Her dark-brown hair is short, curly, frizzy. Head of the Newcomers Committee, the woman is always urging me to sign up for things. Come on the museum trip, to the symphony. Join the reading group. “We have a nifty garden club,” she says. “It could be right up your alley. You’d like the gals.”
I never cared for garden clubs.
To Bitsy I said: “I’ll think about it. When is the next meeting?”
Walking back to my apartment, passing the French Impressionist prints, pondering the prospect of joining a club, I bump head-on into Ruth Parsons, my neighbor from two doors down.
“Adelaide, how are you! You’ve been on my mind! I’d love to have you come to my apartment for a glass of wine. It seems the only times we meet are in the mail room, or the back hall by the trash. Would tonight work?”
Ruth Parsons has lived at Shady Hollow longer than anyone I have met. She seems to know every resident, janitor, office staff member. She remembers names. I envy her gift of friendly banter. Ruth is a small, pixyish woman with bluntly-cut gray hair held back with a bobby pin. The inevitable crinkly face enhances her character.
“That would be wonderful,” I reply. “I can bring cheese and crackers. It will be a nice end to the day.” (Also, I’m curious to see her apartment with the Raggedy Ann doll door decoration).
My apartment is a sunny pleasure. We did a good job, my daughters and I, culling from a big house, not taking too much furniture, keeping the apartment airy and spare. Dismantling the house was grueling, but we got through it. I have no regrets about tossing out crumbling scrapbooks with curled photographs of unknown relatives.
The portraits were another matter. It was hard, saying goodbye to Goody and Lydia, my great-grandparents. They were the Victorian members of our household.
Goodman and Lydia Brooks, he in a black jacket and cravat, she in a dark green dress with a lace collar. Lydia’s severely parted dark hair, tied back from her face, made a straight line along the top of her head. In their gilt oval frames, they seemed to follow your travels in and out of the dining room with curiosity. Nobody in the family had room for these relatives; we appealed to all cousins, so off they went to auction. I kept some formal china and family silver, I didn’t want to say goodbye to everything. The cheese and crackers I arrange on a Lenox plate.