I lived next door to Goldie and her husband Glenn from age 3 to 13. Through the stages of early childhood, grade school years, and junior high, I always felt welcome to visit them when they were outside. Reconnecting with Goldie when I became an adult helped me to understand this outgoing and kind woman and her practical philosophies better.
There was a row of neatly stacked outdoor folding chairs that I was welcome to unfold and place by Goldie when she was on her porch. If she was sitting on the porch, her yarn and crochet hook were likely in action. She could do very detailed work and in her life time completed at least two of the scenes of the “Last Supper.” Among her other creations were throws to keep her elderly mother’s legs warm.
Goldie’s hair was white and her styled hair was sometimes kept in place by hair net with beads. As I sat next to her, she would sometimes manicure her nails, and paint them with transparent polish. She may have been in her early 60’s when I was in grade school. I believe she was aware of my grandmother becoming more crippled with rheumatoid arthritis as she told me when she was younger that her arthritis was so bad that she couldn’t raise her arm’s above her head giving me a ray of hope that perhaps my grandmother may improve in a likewise manner.
Goldie seemed to take delight in some of our childish ways. She liked to tell the story of how my brother was told that he had his shoes on the wrong feet when he was small and he promptly replied, “But they are the only feet I have.”
My hardest trial of my happiest childhood years was failing eyesight in the fifth grade. Goldie did find it hard to comprehend my vanity and drama as my brother did not demonstrate such behavior about a year earlier when he got his first pair of glasses. I don’t know how many times through the years I heard the story of her poor eyesight as a young person, and how someone took pity on her and taught her to crochet. She recounted to me how it was like a miracle to see so many details when she received her first pair of glasses. While I would have been quite content in my early stages of myopia not to wear glasses, she may have helped me gain a little perspective and realize that maybe it wasn’t the end of the world.
Somewhere along the way she told of how the lush, deep green yard where we were free to play provided there had been a good rain after her husband treated it with chemicals had once been mainly weeds. Each night they would pull weeds. How I loved playing on the fruits of their labors and practicing my tumbling moves with my brother and sister. When her little grandson would arrive, we often played tag in the yard.
During visits from her grandson, Goldie would sometimes blow bubbles for all of us and we had a running joke, which I think I more than half-believed about the bubbles growing into flowers. In fact, she had some flowers with bulbous blooms that to me were surely from the bubble seeds.
By the chain length fence around my property, Goldie had a row of red geraniums, which I routinely saw her water. From time to time, she and my mom would have a neighborly visit on their respective sides of the fence.
We lived in a middle class neighborhood near the Benson Business District in Omaha, NE. Their home was a modest one story home, which they would later add white siding to the exterior. The back yard was equally as lush and green as the front. Although mature trees lined our yards, it seems like they were picked up immediately in their yard. The front sidewalk was kept clear of any debris. I can still see Goldie in motion sweeping it. Through the years, I don’t think I visited inside much, but I do recall it was tidy. When we had a coffee for the person running for State Senate, she volunteered her sterling silver coffee service for the event.
Her husband, Glenn, welcomed us as well. What I think speaks volumes about the man next door is that she said he was the only man she could see herself living with. They married at a mature age and the doctor told she would not have a child. When she conceived, she was told the baby would not be carried to term. She defied the odds and gave birth to a fine baby boy.
After she was widowed, it was arranged for her to move into an apartment at the Maple Crest Nursing Home across from Benson West Grade School in Omaha. She seemed very comfortable with this new community where I think some of the residents were also members of the Benson Baptist Church where she played the organ or piano for many years. Her musical keyboard was moved to her apartment. When she required more skilled care, she was moved to the nursing home. While at Maple Crest, donations of yarn were put to good use by her as she made mats for an animal shelter. She admitted that she would rather be creating something to be used by a person.
As an adult, I asked Goldie why she was so encouraging to me about doing school work when I murmured about homework. She said very pragmatically that you have to do things in life that you don’t want to do. During the course of one conversation, she learned it was my day off from work and informed me how the children in their family would make sure a meal was ready when her mom was spending the day in the garden.
Goldie really described herself best during one of our adult conversations when she said,” I am a people person.” I am not sure how much I buy into the theory of archetypes or typical examples of personality types. Yet, I wish there were someone with all the lovely traits of Goldie next door to every child the world over.
- population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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