“Now listen…”


This is how my neighbor Julia usually begins her sentences when she’s making a point. She’s usually pointing a finger at me too. Julia is beginning to pack up her home so she can move into assisted living, closer to her son and his family. She’ll be 90 in February and has been living alone since her husband Roscoe died in 1993. She is a force to reckon with, and has lived in that house since before ours was built in 1950.

As we’re getting closer to actually inhabiting each room of our home, the artwork and photos are slowly being hung. Last night I was hanging up our family photos in the living room as Julia was next door taking hers down. The irony was not lost on me.

Our first Christmas in the house I helped her make her fruitcake for her family. I’d never made one and noticed she had all the candied fruits and nuts, but just didn’t have the energy. Once it was baked and she had covered it with cheesecloth she pulled a  plastic wrapped bottle of Mogen David from her deep freeze, unscrewed the cap and drizzled it over the top. Julia’s a good Baptist woman so I assume this bottle had been in her home since I attended the US Festival in 1983. . . BTW I attended Monday the 30th.

Yesterday morning I walked next door to give her the molasses I’d picked up for her, so she can make her rolls. Mind you she’s moving in a little over a week and she is hell bent on baking rolls for her family’s holiday meals. She said she tried to substitute with the sorghum she had but they tasted nasty. She starts baking these every October and just "puts them up" in the freezer until they come by to fetch her to spend the holidays with them. She’s really sad that she won’t be able to do this any more.

She is gifting us with a lovely buffet that she antiqued herself. It’s green and will look smashing with my bright aqua kitchen walls. She also gave me her yarn tote, you know the kind with fabric and wooden legs that open like a  tray stand. She crocheted, she said it was her constant companion and reached for it beside her chair every night when she was watching TV, much the way I do with my knitting. We’re touched that she wants us to have these things and we’ll always have a piece of her life with us.

When we bought this house we immediately installed central air, pulled up carpeting and refinished the hardwoods. With so much work we stayed in our rental in Austin for a month while driving out here after work and on the weekends to work. I would leave work, go by and grab Roscoe and head out the "new house". It was really hard work and the meals were of the drive-thru variety. On one Sunday morning during that month Julia came out as we showed up and called us over. She said to come by for lunch at noon, we said, "sure thing". We cleaned ourselves up and head on over at noon. She had been cooking all morning for us. She’d made fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, green beans, rolls and chocolate pie. We were blown away at such hospitality and knew we’d made the right move to this small town. We love telling that story  to people who wonder why the hell we moved from über cool Austin to a decidedly uncool small town who’s claim to fame is sausage and bricks.

We’ll miss her being next door and are hopeful that someone will see the beauty and potential of her home, with its amazing roof line (you can kinda see it in above photo) and  ultra high ceilings, and love it as much as Julia does. I need to remember to ask her for the recipe for those rolls….

4 thoughts on ““Now listen…”

  1. ahna says:

    What a lovely letter to a neighbor. If you haven’t already given her a copy, you should. Maybe one to her family, also, so they remember what a wonderful person they have in Julia.
    It all goes so quickly, and then it seems that we are forgotten. How nice that you will remember her in those special treasures that she’d given to you.


  2. Mona says:

    Yes, I did get a bit verklempt when I read this. You truly do… ‘walk in beauty’ my dear, and I so enjoy reading the blurbs. The woman you have become…. she is so full of grace. I feel quite sure that if I met her I would want to get to know her…
    The day I lost my father a couple of years ago, I was on the phone for hours. Family, friends, decisions, anguish, etc. After a while I felt as if the walls of my apartment would close in on me. So even though I was in a bit of shock, I had to get out of the house and so went to our HFS. It has been a port in a storm for me since I moved up here. There was the sweetest soul that worked there for a bit. Bethany. You can almost see the wings draped off of her shoulders, you know? She looked at me and could see. And she asked how I was and I just replied, “My father just died”. Then I walked over and sat down for a bit in the little eating area. As I left the store later she gave me a big hug and a little brown bag. Inside the bag was a lemongrass votive candle and a card. In the card were some lovely words of hers and this quote,
    “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” – James M Barrie
    This sentiment is for you dear one… and for Julia….


  3. laurie says:

    What a lovely post + a good reminder for me to get to know my neighbors. I’m a bit of a wall flower when it comes to reaching out. Also, I used to live in Houston so I’m wondering if you live in Chappel Hill? I remember once going to a Scarecrow Festival there.


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