After he got married, and after his baby boy was suddenly ten years old, our neighbor decided he needed a bigger house. On the day he moved the final load, he told my husband, who relayed it to me, that the house had sold in a single day. A young man had knocked on his door years earlier. “This was my grandmother’s house,” the young man had said. “If you ever sell, I want to buy it. Here’s my number.”
With that, I loved our soon-to-be neighbor even more than I loved the periwinkle that stitched our yards together. My husband, who met him first, told me his name was Kevin. “Very nice guy,” he said.
I was out watering begonias before the heat of the day set in. There was Kevin, straightening the mailbox post. When he looked up, I waved. “Hi.” I walked over. “I’m Dawn.” We met halfway and shook hands.
He was grinning. Not a new grin, but one that had already settled in long before he extended his hand. “Kevin," hes said. "Pleased to meet you.”
“I heard this was your grandmother’s house.”
The grin said, “Yeah. She planted all this vinca.”
My affection for both Kevin and his ground cover blossomed into adoration.
He said, “She had it all over the yard. I’m going to plant more.”
Like I’d planted a lilac bush out by my back fence, to recapture the dense fragrance of lilac from my grandmother Mon’s front yard. The trivets that had hung all over her kitchen were now hanging in mine. And the velvet velvet couch in her living room, where I’d sit very straight, Cinderella at the ball? Even though my taste now runs toward the sleek and modern, there’s a velvet couch in my living room.
Kevin said, “The yard was so pretty. She was out here all the time.”
My grandmother sewed all the time. Mon was a professional seamstress and tailor. I was the morose middle daughter among four siblings. Stunted into solitude until the summer Mon taught me how to sew. She didn’t teach anybody else, just me, just the two of us. We walked downtown to buy a pattern and crisp red cotton, which we transformed into a wrap-around skirt––reversible, bandana print on one side, solid on the other. Because we didn't own a sewing machine at home, I tucked away the clack clack clack of Mon’s Singer and the creamy feel of her lotioned hands helping mine push fabric under the needle. I tucked away the lift in my chin from wearing a pretty skirt made just for me, by Mon and me. But after college, when I was single with plenty of time between dates, I made all my clothes, and my mother’s, and my niece’s.
Kevin and I went back to our chores.
The other morning he was dragging a cord across his back deck.
“I hope you don’t mind the blower this early.”
8 AM. I was already pulling weeds from the coreopsis bed. “Not at all.”
He said, “I’m going to put English ivy in the front planter. My grandmother had it draping over the retaining wall.”
“Very pretty,” I said.
Kevin’s front yard has sprouted gazing globes, landscape lights, and more vinca. My husband’s worried it might be too much for our conservative neighborhood. I think it’s just right.
A Good Christian Woman: Saint Grandma
Praise God. Praise Krishna.
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