Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watching And Thinking About Blueberries

On Saturday and Sunday mornings I wake up relatively early, by about 8 A.M. I make my coffee, grab my beloved Plain Dealer from the front porch, and sit on the end of the couch to read it in the quiet. From my perch, I can also glance outside my front windows and survey the neighborhood, which is usually absent of any activity.

For the past several months, however, I have been on Tish Watch. I anxiously wait for her big silver Buick to pull up into her driveway across the street. I am hopeful that, this time when she climbs the front steps and goes into her house, it will be to stay. Thus far, I remain disappointed.

Tish and Barrington Cash--I am using aliases, of course--owned the white Georgian-styled house across the street from us when we moved in 25 years ago. We were at least half their age then: she had been Rick's kindergarten teacher! Members of our town's elite, they were part of the Country Club Set, "had money," and had standing golf dates every weekend. She never called her husband "Barry"--always referred to him as "Barrington." They wintered in Florida, the neighbor did their yardwork, and they always drove a huge Buick that almost skimmed the sides of their absurdly small garage.

When we moved in with Jared as a baby of four months old, Tish walked across the street at some point to welcome us. She carried in her hands two pints of fresh blueberries. "I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood!" she said brightly, and smiled brilliantly. "I know that a pie is customary, but I don't bake. But here are some lovely blueberries. You can bake your own!" And she laughed, made a fuss over the baby, and then talked about having had my husband in kindergarten--how very quiet and shy he had been. "He never, ever talked!" she said. "I had to call his mother and ask if he even knew how!" After a few more pleasantries, she stepped back across the street and that was pretty much it.

But we were cordial and neighborly. We waved, said hello, offered important information as needed about neighborhood things. She was kind to our children always. We watched in amusement the comings and goings of Tish and Barrington's high class friends and their many golf outings. We knew when they left each late fall for Florida, and we could tell by instinct each spring when they'd be back.

Then came the terrible summer when Barrington had his heart attack. Tish was back and forth to the hospital alone. And then she was all alone, period. We wondered what would happen. Would she stay at home in that big house? Would she move in with her married child, who lived nearby? We did not presume upon a relationship that we did not have. We worried from across the street, but if Tish had asked for our help, we would gladly have given it.

Little by little, Tish resumed her old life, but without Barrington. She lost weight dreadfully, but old friends showed up in her driveway to take her out to the golf course and to brunches and to dinner. The lights flickered on and off in her house across the street, and her big silver car began to pull in and out of the driveway regularly again. After a modest period, gentlemen even began to visit. Rick and I would smile and say, "Wonder if Tish is having a little spend-over tonight?" My heart would gladden every time I'd see her stroll around her yard and inspect her bushes and the flowerpots on her front steps. Pretty soon, I stopped glancing over across the street. Things were going to be all right.

But this past spring, our street had a major water project done on it and all of our driveways were affected. I suddenly noticed that I hadn't seen Tish pull in or out of hers for quite some time. Maybe she's stayed in Florida a while longer this year, I reasoned. The weather has been hideous. But May and June came and went, and there had been no activity across the street whatsoever. Our neighborhood has changed so much that there was no one on our street to ask, either. I started to keep my vigil.

Finally, one morning, a concrete crew showed up. Tish was getting a brand new driveway, it seemed. I despaired. Was her house going up for sale? What was happening? Is she okay? A few days later, her children showed up to inspect the work. A few days after that, Tish herself arrived. I anxiously watched as she pulled up, then got out of her car. She seemed to be moving about all right. She walked up the front steps without any difficulty, it looked to me. She went inside. After several moments she came outside, got into her car, and left. I was gratified that she was all right--that she seemed to be healthy and, since she was able to drive, still herself. But why isn't she at home?

And so it has continued to this day although her visits to her home are more frequent. You probably wonder why I am so interested; wonder if I have too much time on my hands, or if I am one of those nosy neighbors who should mind her own damn business.

Quite simply, I have an awful lot invested in Tish. She is me. I am rooting for her because she is what I hope I would be like under those circumstances. That I would be able to come back home, live on my own, pick up my life, and go on. That I would live independently and well, and that I would be okay...or even better than okay.

I need her to come home soon. And when she does, I am taking her a fresh, homemade blueberry pie.


  1. Love this story...thanks for sharing.

  2. Now you've got me all curious as to why she's not home!

    Maybe she has moved on and has settled down somewhere else, where she's living an even more fulfilling life than she was before.

  3. This makes me feel sad.

  4. Or if you don't feel like baking a pie, how about some nice vanilla ice cream with fresh blueberries? To be honest, I like that even better.

    Our next door neighbor is currently in the hospital with complications from Lupis that require surgery. I'm not even sure what that means. But I'm watching, and when she comes home, I think you're right. I'll bring her something. Pie. Fruit. Whatever.

  5. Maybe she got herself a boyfriend, and is staying with him. That's what my dad's second wife did three times before marrying my dad, and did it with him, too. Dad was her fourth husband after she left #3 in the trailer park. Died six months after marrying her. She's 79 now, and on #5. You never know.

  6. Nance—Breaking my rule on not posting from work for this one. This post absolutely has to be some of your most compelling and best writing ever. I think we all do this watching/admiring/hoping with neighbors whom we’ve developed a fondness for (even from our neighborly distance). And, now that you’ve shared this piece, I suspect that really this is why we all do it … we see ourselves in them and are rooting for them. Lovely, Nance. Just lovely. I could see all the scenes unfold before me as I read. Thank you for this one. I’ll be rooting for Tish.


  7. Shirley--Oh, there you are! I thought you had lost your way to the Dept. or were perhaps boycotting it. ;-) Thank you for the compliments on this piece. It is, obviously, different than what I normally post here. I had been forming it up in my mind for a while and thought I'd try it out. Glad you appreciated it.

    sputnik--somehow, i don't think that's tish's style. but you're entirely correct--i just don't know.

    j.@jj--oh, i have no trouble at all with baking. i like to cook and bake, unlike tish, it would seem. and the idea of taking food to someone is always so pleasant.

    Nina--I'm sorry. But it is a sort of melancholy situation, isn't it? I realize that this piece is a departure for me here at the Dept. I'll be back to "usual programming" in the next post.

    Mikey--But she keeps coming home. And it's not to get her mail. The mailman doesn't even stop there. He walks right past her house every time.

    Tiana--I've filed this away with what I thought was a different story to turn it into one longer piece of fiction. Will I ever write the whole hybridized thing? Sigh.... Someday, perhaps, when I'm done teaching everyone else how to write.

  8. you've got me rooting for her, too! I feel as if I need to invest a little bit of myself in Tish. We all do.

  9. Okay. Now I'M curious about Tish. She's like Luther, the guy I see buying wine at my local store. I'm sad when I don't see him, even though he's "toasted" most of the time when I do. Fingers crossed for your neighbor.

  10. Nancy7:42 PM

    What Shirley said, Nance, except for the part about being at work.

    Well written and very well received..

  11. Nancy--Thank you. Every once and a while I like to flex a few different creative muscles, you know?

    apathy lounge--i'll keep everyone updated somehow. no recent sightings or news. i'm racking my brain trying to think of a Tish Connection in order to get definitive info, but like me, she was a pretty private neighbor. pleasant and cordial, but not a mixer.

    Melissa B.--As a woman of "a certain age", I guess I start thinking of my not-so-distant future. Not sure of where you are in that continuum, but maybe it hits you someplace there, too.

  12. Somehow your story evokes the melancholy feel of an old film or novel. Lovely in its quiet simplicity, leaving one with a yearning for more: What has happened? Where does she live now? Why does she only stay for a few moments? And yet if we found out the answers, and they weren't in keeping with the tone of your story, we'd be disappointed. I want to know the answers, but then again... I don't. I can daydream whatever ending I would like the story to have.

    I am also that woman of a certain age, but somehow, I don't want the example to follow or to live up to. Being my own worst critic, I need to create my own path as I go, and not judge myself against an ideal that I'm not sure was real to begin with. I spent much of my life doing just that, and it created many problems for me.

    Now, I want to try to do the best I can for everyone involved in every situation I meet. Sometimes I do a great job, and sometimes I fall flat on my face. Either way, I try to remember that I'm doing the best I can at any given time, and I will ride off into the sunset with no regrets.

  13. Life @FF--I know what you mean in many respects. I find the example of others a nice trailblazer, however, and perhaps that's the teacher in me. I am a natural student, learning by example both the best way to do some things and the worst--hence, those to avoid.

  14. My heart was beating so fast as I was reading the end of this post! I'm sending good wishes to Tish. And I'm sure she'll love the pie. : )

  15. Anali--Tish visited her home on Sunday again. She stayed about an hour this time, and for some reason, she checked her mailbox. Very odd, seeing as there hasn't been mail delivery there for many months. I was hoping that it perhaps meant that she was coming home to stay the next day or so, but alas, no. I haven't seen her since.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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