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Monday, May 09, 2005

An Apology, Long Overdue



I am six years old, sitting on the back porch of our house in Delaware with my Mom, while she shells the peas that we've picked from our garden. This is the best porch in the neighborhood. Big, with a gray painted cement floor and a green-and-white striped metal awning that shields us from sun and rain. We have a Frigidaire right there on the porch, where there is always "pop" and beer. From the porch we see our neighbors' backyards to the left and the right. My father owns the houses that we can see in either direction. I don't know why I don't say "my parents" own; it is my father who moved the houses there, maintains them, rents them out to people. Straight back from the porch is our sprawling, perfectly-tended garden; behind that, a large soybean field; behind that, the woods. Where I spend hours, where there is a "clubhouse," where my friends and I can disappear all day without anyone even once fearing that we have been abducted by a predator. That doesn't happen in the 1960s; or at least no one I know has ever heard of it happening.

We're on the porch, and here comes Delma, the lady who, with her husband, "Alabama," and their little baby, Bonnie, rents the house three to the left from our back porch. Delma is carrying a basket of ironing that she has done for my mother. My mother feels sorry for Delma, whose husband, "Alabama," apparently "shoots pool for a living," so she hires Delma to do jobs that Mom does better herself. Indeed, "Delma can't iron worth a damn," and often my Mom re-irons Delma's work. But it is a way for my Mom to help Delma earn a little spending money.

I am fascinated by Delma. She sits down to chat, in one of the green and white folding lawn chairs, and I get very close and stare at her face. I tell her, "Your one eye is real pretty, Miss Delma." She smiles, and she looks a little like Carly Simon (although I don't know that at the time). Big, luxurious mouth. One tooth is very yellow.

She says, "Which one, honey?" And I lean across the arm of the lawn chair to point to the pretty one, but I lose my balance and I poke her in it. She's real nice about it, though. Until that moment, my mother has not looked closely at Delma. Now she does, to make sure Delma's eye is alright.

Then my mother says, "Delma, honey, you just fixed one eye." So that's why the one is so pretty. It's been fixed. Delma has taken time from her ironing job, and her toddler chasing, and her fighting with Alabama, to put on some eye makeup. But she has only taken enough time to do the one eye. With black eyeliner, top and bottom. And shimmery blue eyeshadow, even on that narrow inside ledge of her lower eyelid. And lots of black mascara, to look like spider legs. It is a pretty eye. Two of them might be too much of a good thing. I think it is just fine that she has only fixed the one.

And I had to go and poke her in it. I wish I didn't do that.

Sorry, Miss Delma.

23 heads are better than one . . .

Anonymous lawbrat said...

Sometimes 1 is better than 2. Thanks for the reminder. Beautiful story, applies in many different situations.
Thats one thing I love about your writing, you can touch so many people, and each one feels like your wrote it just for them.

 
Blogger mrtl said...

Well it's too early to be so mixed up, especially after just going through a very emotional reading at La Pix's.

Without the last line... it was a sad, prophetic story. It jerked my heart, this woman who irons for spending money and forgets to do her other eye. It's telling that you, even as a child, found beauty in her mistake (when many kids would say, "Mom, she only has one eye done. That's silly!"). Ok, so it's still a sad and prophetic story, but I'm leaving laughing.

 
Blogger Andrea said...

That was a great story, Susie. Thanks for making me laugh out loud this morning!

 
Blogger Susie said...

lawbrat, thank you. I'm glad you found something in it. I am feeling writer's blocky, and sat down wanting to write something but having nothing to say. Then this fell out of my fingers. I'm still trying to process it. It makes me laugh, and makes me think. This is a departure for me (who would know that better than you? you are so "loyal" to my silly little blog, bless your heart:)

mrtl, I'm mixed up, why should I be the only one? I think after Mother's Day, I am feeling childlike, and philosophical. Life is sad and funny. I think you did notice something of my personality in this story, which I hadn't really considered. I do respond to the "unusual" more with, "hmmm, that's different..." than with "that's wrong!" And I have worked (and lived) with people and situations that have required me to challenge myself to "find the beautiful" in whatever scene presented itself. Oh, Lord, it IS early for this sort of thing!

Andrea, I'm tickled that you found the humor, the humor found you:)

 
Blogger Bente said...

Sweet story. Sounds like you grew up in very nice surroundings. I remember being able to play in the woods all day without anyone panicking as well. Too bad the way some things change.

 
Blogger ieatcrayonz said...

Susie, by the power invested in me, consider yourself forgiven.

I wish I had half the patience that Delma had and a quarter of the heart of your mom. Sounds like you were surrounded by a lot of love as a kiddo.

 
Blogger trisha said...

Awwww, great story! Thanks!

 
Blogger Circus Kelli said...

Oh my... less *is* more. :)

And here I thought this was going to be a "wonky eye" story, or something. :)

 
Blogger Spurious Plum said...

Nothing like having your kid poke your neighbor in the eye. That's our Susie, making a good impression!


This story's awesome, BTW. Thanks for the good read!

 
Blogger dashababy said...

Hmmmm. Interesting. I thought everybody put makeup on the same way,,, kinda like shoes. First the socks, then the shoes. Same way with makeup. First eyeliner on BOTH eyes, then mascara, then eyeshadow. Never thought of completing one eye totally before the other. There is a certain order and routine to most things. Sounds like she was an awfully busy lady, Delma, bless her heart. Sounds like she was as good at the makeup as she was the ironing.
Cute story Susie, I had a nice visual going on there. I can just see you. That was fun.

 
Blogger Nic said...

M'dear Susie Sunshine. Even at that early age you had a good heart. Nice to know the best things about us never change as we get older!

 
Blogger Greenthumb said...

That felt very much like a Zora Neal Hurston story in which everyday occurances are portrayed casually. She would take things like a man punching his wife in the eye and use the perspective of a child to reveal the concept that it was a normal occurance and soften the blow to the reader by using descriptions like you did here. Maybe she really did only dress one eye, but it totally felt like a domestic violence event. Do you know her works? Zora Neal Hurston that is?

Nicely done.

 
Blogger Susie said...

bente, welcome, I was just telling another blogger the other day about that; about how my friends and I would disappear from morning until dinner time, in the woods, in and out of each others' homes...my daughter has no concept of that level of freedom; today our kids must be accounted for every moment; sad reality.

robyn, I accept the forgiveness;) Love was one among the many things by which I was surrounded... stay tuned... No, seriously, my Mom is quite compassionate, sometimes even too willing to help out those in need.

trisha, hey, I know you! I swiped a neon sign from you a while back! I'm glad you stopped in; I had "lost" you, and now I can find you again:)

CK, oh don't think I don't have a "wonky eye" story, because I absolutely do...whether it will ever appear here...we'll see...

Plum, the only thing worse than being poked in the eye by the neighbor kid is being poked in the eye by the neighbor kid while you're wearing stretch pants and tassel loafers;)

dashababymama, you have a point there, gets me to thinking... and see greenie's comment ... I think I put on eye makeup (on those rare occasions when I do put it on) like you do, except, I ALWAYS put on mascara LAST, so that nothing powdery (eyeshadow, powder,etc.) will stick to it. Different strokes...

nic, you sweetie, you are so right; I'm still highly likely to lose my balance and poke someone in the eye! :0

greenie. Oh, greenie. First, you flatter me like crazy. I have not read her books, but I want to. I have read reviews, and I adored the Oprah movie based on her book. Now. I really think you may have hit upon why this vignette stuck with me. Delma MAY well have been trying to cover a black eye. Which would have been all the more reason for my Mom to take her "under wing" the way she did, AND it would explain why she took extra care to so thoroughly decorate the one eye, and not, as Detective Dashababymama points out, to do both eyes the way a woman normally does. Welcome to the writing therapy hour.

 
Blogger Susie said...

It's DANG's birthday! Go wish him well!

 
Anonymous La Pix said...

I love this post and this thread.

I love that Greenie saw Zora in it, and that mrtl laughed and... everyone seeing something in your story. I just love it.

It's like a good friend of mine said about a little blurb I wrote about every day life when I was a kid: 'I love how it goes from light to dark to light again... that is human truth, how beauty and tenderness and meanness and ugliness are all mixed together in this life.'

Thanks for the very thoughtful and touching (yeah, we're running out of adjectives lol) comment re: my post today.

Thank you for writing in your blog. It's a real nice place to visit. Nice how some blogs, songs, movies... just sort of live and breathe.

 
Blogger echrai said...

Wonderful story - reminds me of memories I have from people when I was a child - what I saw that meant more than I knew them to mean then - and the little things that left impressions on me.

 
Blogger Torrie said...

Wonderful writing Susie.

 
Blogger Robin said...

Doesn't it amaze you which memories we retain from childhood? Some of them seem so obscure, like they have no real meaning on the surface. I have tons of memories from childhood of conversations or seemingly mundane situations that I retain in vivid detail. Obviously, these memories are meant to stay with us, to teach us or remind us.

As usual, GREAT post!

 
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

Maybe Delma only had enough stuff to do one eye? Mom shoulda raised her wages.

Or, you coulda poked THE OTHER eye.

Good story, Susie. Thanks.

 
Blogger marybishop said...

This story shows that beauty is on the eye of the beholdee.

Great writing as usual...you must save all of these stories and publish them!

 
Blogger Susie said...

la pix, Happy Birthday, once again. What you say makes me think of something I've written in a post I'm trying to write about "Why Therapists Can't Blog." Two other blogging therapists have pretty much told me that they blog in fear of their clients "seeing themselves" in their posts. I understand what they mean; privacy and confidentiality must be carefully guarded; at the same time, that's one of the marks of a good, a meaningful story -- people can see themselves in it. Whatever they are inclined to see.
I do so appreciate the encouragement. The last few days I've been very ambivalent about blogging. Got nothing else to say...that I CAN say...because Therapists Can't Blog....AAAGGGHHHH! This is blog therapy here today...;)

echrai, I know...I think if something is stuck in our hearts/heads, there's a reason for that...it's not just arbitrary, there is something we are to get from it...

torrie, thank you for that. I do hope you're feeling better:)

robin, yes, exactly; what I said to Echrai, I realize, is almost exactly your comment:)

Old Horsetail Snake, leave it to you to introduce a warped...er, that is to say, a unique perspective on the matter;)

MB, thank you for the vote of confidence. Blogging really has served its purpose of getting me writing again, after a long drought. Glad you're back!

 
Blogger Von Krankipantzen said...

You must write a novel about your life. I mean SERIOUSLY! You can really paint a pretty picture with words, lady. I would totally buy it and read it. In HARDCOPY too!

 
Anonymous Nuclear Butterfly said...

Thank you for the blessing and the chuckles. Great story.

 


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