Monday, April 2, 2012

Old Friends

I remember clearly the first time I heard this song. I was a young wife and mother, 22 years old, living in Phoenix in a hundred-year-old adobe house with two foot thick walls and plank floors laid directly on the original packed mud floor. Our older son was not yet two, the cicadas sang outside. We had very little money but I was so very happy.

At the time I associated this song with Edie Hewitt, who'd been our landlady in Oak Park Illinois the first year of our marriage. She was 72, I was 19 and we became the best of friends. Tony worked evenings so she and I would have dinner together, her friends Bess and Viola would come by and we'd play canasta for hours.

Edie Hewitt was feisty and knew exactly how to get her own way at City Hall or the local grocer's. Her late husband had been the City treasurer for 17 years. He had died a year or two earlier but she still had contacts. She had "the dirt" on everyone in City Hall, and wasn't above using it. One thing you weren't supposed to have in our upscale neighbourhood was renters, but she didn't like going off and leaving her place empty while she visited her son "Young America". So we were renters/house-sitters.

One day a City Inspector came to the door with a complaint about her "illegal renters". She told me this afterwards with a little twinkle in her highly mischievous eye. She invited him in, looked over his paper and proceeded to let him know that she knew where his particular bodies were buried at City Hall. He thought a minute, put his hat on, straightened his tie and said he was happy her adult grandchildren were able to help her out, now that she was a widow.

One day I found her laughing so hard she was wheezing and crying. The nearby grocer delivered a box of groceries for her a couple of times a week, she'd broken her elbow and found it hard to carry things. She'd call her order in and Frank the grocer would bring the things by an hour or two later.

On this particular day she'd decided she wanted a salad, so she said she'd asked Frank the price of a head of lettuce. He said it was 19 cents. She was outraged! "Nineteen cents!" she told him, "Frank, at that price you know where you can stick that head of lettuce!"

"No, ma'm I'm sorry," the grocer replied. "I can't, I've got a head of cabbage and three pounds of pork chops up there already and it's only 10:00 am."

We kept in touch for years, she visited us when we moved to California, and we exchanged cards at holidays. She passed away in 1973 at the age of 80. I still have some of her letters. She was a lovely friend and it warms me, just to think of her.

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