Anne Strainchamps: And before we go, I want to leave you with one more neighbor story from a listener. This one is a poem by Susan Avishy about the elderly woman who lived next door to her for more than 25 years.
I’ve come with strawberries because she used to grow her own and they don’t serve enough fruit here she complains.
I’ve come with stories of the neighborhood which she spices with her salt box of memory.
She has seen everyone come and go in 80 years, knows when each roof was re-shingled, each tree put in.
That fir was planted after the hurricane of 38 took down the maple she says.
I admit there were times I stayed indoors 10 minutes so I wouldn’t trip over her stories on my way out.
I waited because I was rushed.
She lived alone for 14 years after mother died.
No longer did the nighties from the nursing home lovingly hand washed dance in the breeze outback.
They’d have ruined them in that laundry she says.
I tell her how many showed up when the house was put for sale, earnest young couples with distracted toddlers, now I’m the older next door neighbor, not much younger than she was when we first came.
She hopes we get nice people, adds it should have fetched more.
I stand to leave, bend to touch the cool creased cheek, the airless warmth has made me a little sick myself, I cannot talk, it isn’t goodbye, not yet she says.
Why do I weep all the way home to those abutting houses both with tulips abloom though hers stand bolder?
She doesn’t know I’ve stolen a trunk from her attic, put out last week as trash; I’ve dragged it indoors, the trunk her father took four years to Brown, aut-2 to aut-6. And when my door was closed, I opened it.
Inside were mother’s nighties, clean and folded, why would you want those, she’d say.
Strainchamps: A poem by Susan Avishy, she wrote it just a few months before her neighbor passed away