Hiya, Doll!

 

I was at a thrifty store, sifting through the scores of photos in plastic sheet protectors and colorized baby faces from Loring Studios when my fingers caught on the metal edge of this employee badge.

It was a young man’s face, in shades of gray and black and white, lying inside a grayish metal frame that had seen better decades. There was almost something etheral about that photo, a foggy glaze brought on by the years or a clumsy picture taker, that make the overall feel of it hypnotic. So of course I bought it.

On the back is a silver-coated cardboard piece which looks just like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was blank. Not faded away, not rubbed off through years of use, but blank. My handsome young man in the frame was nameless.

So here’s the story:

They met without meeting. The young girl, almost a woman, would wait each morning on the cement wall that bordered the catholic church, sitting and swinging her legs ever so slightly as she watched people hurrying by her on their way to work. She would sit there, always waiting for girlfriends with no sense of time, because girls of her age in her era walked in giggly packs with fresh-scrubbed faces. It was only when the school came into view that they would all stop, hands reaching inside coat pockets for their tube of lipstick purchased at the local drugstore, and redden their lips to perfection.

Each day that the young woman sat there, on that cement wall with one hand idly playing with the silver tube in her pocket, he would appear. Not hurrying, head down like the men in hats racing to make the train or the crumpled old women snaking in for morning mass.

No.

This one, he sauntered. swinging a battered metal lunch pail in perfect rhythm with the girl’s swinging legs. And each morning as he moved by her in that fluid motion of his he would throw a “Hiya Doll!” her way, along with half a smile.

At first she ignored him, or at least that is what she told her giggly friends. In reality she she glanced at him quickly, then away, then just as quickly her eyes would meet his again, and a pain sharp and sweet would run down her throat all the way to her swinging legs.

Some weeks he would bring her a little something-a few daffodils in the spring, four stolen roses clipped fresh from a neighbor’s yard,  and a handful of butternuts, from the same neighbor. Always, and only, with a “Hiya Doll!” as he would hold his hand out with the  offering.

In return, the young woman would offer, sitting beside her, something fresh from the oven. One week it was snickerdoodles, with their crisp sides and crowns of cinnamon. Another time a few slices of fresh-baked bread, then as time went on the slices became a loaf. And still, the only exchange beyond the gifts was the “Hiya Doll!” and the smiles in their eyes.

This day the young woman arrives, lipstick already applied, a fresh pinch to her cheeks and a tremble along her arms. Today she will speak to the handsome young man who holds her eyes in his. Today she will tell him her name. Today she will ask him his.

When she reaches her usual spot on the cement wall in front of the catholic church, she stops. Placed exactly where she sits each morning before school is a small silver employee badge. She picks it up gently, and feels that same sharp but sweet pain from her throat down to her toes when she sees his photo inside. There he is, in a crisp white shirt with a serious stare, like the person taking the picture admonished him not to smile.

She waits but he doesn’t come by. When her friends arrive, late as usual, the young woman pockets the small metal-edged badge, not wanting to leave it behind to become lost. If he needs it for work today, he will get in trouble, she thinks to herself as her friends giggle along beside her.

After two weeks of sitting on the cement wall, with his badge inside her coat pocket next to her silver tube of lipstick, she knows he won’t be back. She doesn’t know why, but she is certain that he left that badge for her.

One last gift, from the young man who never said anything beyond “Hiya Doll!” to her. One last gift, this small silver badge with a handsome serious face inside, that she will keep for the rest of her days. This she knows with certainty.

Handsome, isn’t he?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeanette F-3

 

You know how you are drawn to certain color combinations? Whether it’s a throw for the back of the couch or the dominant shades of a print on the wall,  when you see these two colors together your eyes widen for a second and your mouth might even round itself into a little OH as a hand automatically reaches toward the object. You can’t quite help yourself.

That is exactly what happened when I spotted this little handmade beauty at Goodwill. Any shade of cranberry to maroon crossed with forest or deep pine green gets my heart thumpy-thumping and if it happens to be vintage, the checkbook follows.

A bigger heart tugger though, is that I already own a few of these bowls. In varying sizes and patterns, each carry the small finger marks of its elementary-school creator, along with its endearing imperfections. Sure enough, a quick flip reveals the author of this piece…

Jeanette.

So how did this handmade bowl end up here on a Goodwill shelf? Here’s the story…

 

No one likes the old woman that lives next door to Jeanette. Some say she’s lived there since she was first married, in a small tidy white house with two cement steps up to the front door and green awnings over each window to protect the insides from the sun.

No one crosses her yard to get to their friends quicker because she’ll rap her knuckles raw telling them to get out. No one trick-or-treats at her house because her porch light is never on. No one offers to clear the snow away in the winter or to gather up the fallen leaves in October because a pickup truck appears when needed, with leafblowers and snowblowers and out of town markings on its sides.

Until the crisp autumn afternoon when the old woman is making her daily trek to her mailbox at the same time that Jeanette is stepping off of the big yellow bus. They meet at the roadside, the old woman and the young girl, and as the old woman struggles with the latch on her box the young girl drops down to her knees. She unzips her backpack with determination and ever so carefully removes a white plastic bag from inside.

“For you,” she whispers to the old woman, who turns toward the soft voice, circulars mailed to occupant in hand.

“I made it.”

The old woman reaches down as the young girl reaches up and the old woman receives the hug the young girl so freely gives her. She watches as the young girl gathers up her backpack and waves back at her with the white plastic bag swinging in the afternoon air. The old woman runs a gnarled thumb along the small thumbprints along the edge of the crooked cranberry-colored bowl and a smile forms along her lips.

“I will keep it forever,” the old woman whispers into the silence of the autumn air.

She brings that handmade bowl up the two cement steps and right into her kitchen, where she places it on the unused red-flecked placemat directly across from her much-used one.

There that cranberry handmade bowl with the dark green piping stayed, catching the early morning sun year after year, until the young girl left for college and the old woman left this earth.

One of my bowls, proudly made by my son so many years ago
We still use it, for our car keys

Daily Express of memories

 

Propped up against an old wooden wall, alongside half-rusted tools and years of dust, I found this piece of a newspaper in a frame. The frame was nothing special, nor was the yellowed front page of a newspaper from 1940. Just the usual daily reporting of wartime info, on a regular day, so I flinched at the $20 price tag and took pictures instead of purchasing. The place I was at used to be filled with cool broken down odd pieces but had unfortunately for me gone through a gentrification in recent years. Now the old stuff is woven in among all of the strategically placed new but looks vintage  items which seems to be all the rage right now.  I shook my head at the cutesy small pillows and stepped around all of the (dear god save me) antique white-washed wood pieces and carefully folded throws to creep around to the side away from the windows where dust still dances underneath the light of a bare bulb.

April 20, 1940.

The date meant nothing to me, and a quick google search didn’t bring up anything worth framing the front page over.  The search did reveal one cool fact though—this newspaper, the Daily Express, was from England. I took a closer look, zoomed in on a few places and found this:   

Look closely and you will see underneath Daily the words  Black-Out 9.33 p.m. to 6.24 a.m.

Wow. That sent shivers down my arms. So how or why did this front page piece of newspaper end up here, in Connecticut, behind a frame?

Here’s the story—

She hadn’t even cleaned her shiny gold wedding band once before the telegram arrived, shattering her new world. Her husband of two months had been killed in action on April 20, 1940. She didn’t care where or how he died, not really. The knowledge would do nothing for her or the tiny seed of a child she carried in her womb.

When her eyes had emptied of tears and her skirt wouldn’t quite zip, she packed away her wedding china, wrapping each piece carefully in newspaper and into a wooden crate. She could have sold it all, unused as it was, but something propelled her to save it for her slowly-growing bump.

Some years later, after her second husband passed away and she was comfortably settled in America, did she happen upon that wooden crate in the attic. Her bump had grown into a smart and independent young woman, away at college, the same age that her mother had been when she first packed that crate.

Slowly the woman pried off the top of the crate. She brushed aside a strand of her still auburn hair as she looked inside, remembering the china wrapped away all those years ago. What she hadn’t remembered was the newspaper.

She had wrapped the pieces up carefully, slowly, without thinking but by muscle memory, in the only thing available to her, which was the newspaper from the same day as the telegram. The telegram was burned after she read it, words that forever changed her. Somehow the newspaper was forgotten, had slipped through only to be refound now, when years had eased the pain of raising a daughter who looked so much like her dead father.

She smoothed out a piece of that newspaper, which happened to be the front page. It’s wrinkled and creased but her hands keep at it until the piece lays straight. She takes that newspaper downstairs, along with an empty frame she doesn’t remember putting up there.

She gently places the newspaper into the frame, cutting the bottom a bit so that it fits. Before she closes it she stops, and walks away. She returns carrying a small white carnation, dried yellow and wrapped in a dark blue ribbon. The flower is too fragile so she unties the ribbon, from the boutonniere her soldier man wore on his wedding day, and smooths it onto the side of the newspaper where the advert for Lux soap is. She oh so carefully flips the frame over and seals it shut, trapping that day and those memories behind glass forever.

Too bad she never told her daughter.

Some years later the daughter is cleaning out her mother’s house and creates quite a pile for the local junk man to come and haul away. Sitting on top of that pile is  a wood frame with the front page of an old and yellowed newspaper inside.

And next to that ad for Lux toilet soap a bit of dark blue ribbon could be seen, if anyone cared to look.

I like how I am also in this photo