I walk down the street and I see her sweeping in front of her Newburyport home. I call her name, but not until I call out, “Hey beautiful, what you do’n,” does my friend turn her head. She’s one of the first people I ever knew when I moved here 31 years ago.
My neighbor, way back then, was a crusty old guy, and my friend was the sister of his very longtime girl friend, Ollie.
“What’s go’n on Mary?”
“I don’t know, what’s go’n on?”
My friend shrugs.
Me, “The LHD.”
“You for it or against it?”
“Advocating for it.”
“That’s the one where they want to tell you what to do with your home.”
Not the first time I’ve heard this by a long shot. “It’s mainly to prevent people from tearing down old homes.”
“That’s not such a bad thing, is it.”
“Nope,” I say “And no one’s going to come into anyone’s home. And no one is going to tell anyone what color they can paint their house.”
A little tension goes out of my friend’s shoulders, and we change the subject.
She tells me she turned 87, and we reminisce about her sister and my crusty old neighbor Jim.
Jim and Ollie used to have a huge garden (a real old time neighborhood garden) up on Johnson Street, on the land on the left as you’re walking down the hill towards the Nock Middle School. All built up now. I always wish that I had painted the portrait, or at least taken pictures to paint a portrait one day, of Ollie and Jim, sitting on the side of his old beat up dark green van, the side where the door slid open, in the middle of the huge vegetable field. They were a great, almost iconic Newburyport pair.
So Jim knew a lot about gardening, and laughed and laughed at me when my little tomato plants in my tiny Newburyport backyard were felled by cutworms. (I’m from New York City, who knew from cut worms?).
And Jim came over and told me how to put a ring of paper around the stems of my little tomato plants, and push the the ring of paper down into the earth so the little critters couldn’t snip and destroy.
Jim's cutworm prevention recipe
And Jim was as delighted as I was with my eventual tomato triumph.
“He used to laugh and laugh at you.”
“He sure did.”
“I don’t ever look at a tomato plant without thinking of you and Jim.”
We talked about her children and her grandchildren and folks that are no longer around.
And as I turned to go on with my walk, I winked at her.
“You’d give anybody a lift, Mary.” And that made my day.