My across-the-street neighbor has azalea bushes–well, really, everyone in the South has azalea bushes, it is kind of a requirement, along with ham biscuits and humidity. But hers are just glorious. They bloom into every color possible in the spring.
And by the way, Facebook status updaters. Spring. It’s a lowercase word. “So glad Spring is here!” No, you’re not. You’re glad spring is here. Lowercase. Please. Before I go to a water tower and start picking people off. I beg you.
So my neighbor. Her azaleas. They bloom in every color possible. Okay, no, they do not bloom clear with iridescent and beige zebra stripes, nor do they bloom in, say, rust and terracotta polka dots. Do you have to be so literal? But a lot of colors, okay? Her azaleas come in a lot of colors. And it’s just beautiful.
This will be the third spring I have lived here, and I keep meaning to knock on her door and thank her for her azaleas. I have seen my neighbor and I know she is elderly, and she is one of those older people who leaves the house all the time. I mean, she gets out more than I do, sitting in here at my computer, all Gladys Kravitzing my neighbors all day long.
Finally the other day I went over there, with my business card in my hand because it has my home phone number on it. I figured she should have the number of one of the neighbors should she ever need it, as well.
I knocked on her door and saw she hadn’t picked up her mail yet, and her big ol’ Soap Opera Digest was waiting on her. I already loved her.
She answered the door in a peacock blue velor sweatsuit.
“Hello,” I said. “I’m June Gardens. I live across the street, there. I–“
“Well, won’t you come in! I’m Pollyanna!”
Honest to God. I am not making that name up. And aren’t people from the South nice? If it were anywhere else we’d still be talking through the screen door.
“Sit right down. Aren’t you nice to come over. I declare I never get to meet the new neighbors anymore. Take off your coat, honey. Are you cold?”
It was eight hundred and fifty degrees in her house. Honestly. I am someone who is always cold. I wear a wrap when it’s 75 degrees out. But her house was like I was sitting in the core of the Earth. I half expected Tony Soprano and Uncle Junior to emerge in towels to discuss who to whack next.
“Oh, no,” I told her. “It’s nice and toasty.”
“I can turn it up if you’re chilly,” she said. “I always said, if I go without anything else, I’m gonna have heat and I’m gonna have food.”
If she’d turned that heat up I was going to be sitting there in my pasties and g-string.
Anyway, here is what I love about old people. Her house was so “come on in and sit down” ready. I don’t know about you, but I am a slob. If someone were to come in right now, they’d call the City. There are always magazines and books strewn about, coffee cups on the arm of the couch, throws thrown here and there, and of course the eight feet of animal fur. It’s like I have a bearskin rug, only really disbursed.
But Pollyanna? She had a white rug, for one thing. Spotless white rug. And no animals. And a light couch with no coffee stains on it. And I noted an enormous white Bible on her end table. If I had any kind of white book, it’d look like I read it in a mine within the week. What is wrong with me?
She did tell me she had a den, and maybe that’s my problem. I need a den in which to be my slobeldy self, and a “come right in” living room which stays pristine. But who am I kidding? You really think my “come right in” living room will stay at all tidy?
Anyway, I stayed an hour and we discussed just everything. And Pollyanna was not one to hold anything back. I learned her political views, her social views, her views on the neighbors:
“Have you met that neighbor down yonder?”
“Oh, yes, I–”
“I don’t like him.”
and I’ll tell you what. Pollyanna is exactly the kind of old person I adore. She did not care if her opinions offended me. She told me what she thought and that was that.
After an hour, I wandered back home. “I thought she’d kidnapped you,” Marvin said. “Oh, I would have let her.” I said. I told him all about the shocking and hilarious things Pollyanna had told me.
“Sounds like you met the next Grandma Sophie,” he said.
He was right! She was like the Southern version of Marvin’s Grandma Sophie, who had been one of my favorite people, ever. I wonder if they would have liked each other. Probably Pollyanna would have asked Grandma Sophie some kind of blunt question about being Jewish that would have shocked and kerfluffled the rest of us, and Gramma Sophie would have asked Pollyanna some offensive question about being Southern that would have made the rest of us gasp, and they would have been fine with it and gone on their way.
Anyway, I have a new friendship blooming among the azaleas, over here. I mean, if I can ever catch her 88-year-old self at home.