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There is a lushness to the green hillside that surrounds this town and I never seemed to notice it before. No longer my inescapable straightjacket, it is a welcoming protective cocoon. For the first time, it nurtures my growth and serves as a winter quilt to comfort me.
Have the hills changed in my two-decade absence or have I?
Like a hundred other mosquito-filled evenings, I want to rush to my childhood neighbor’s porch to examine this great philosophy and irony with her.
“Mrs. Vee, you will never believe this, . . .” echoes in my head in a forgotten fog, a child’s voice. She would be leaning back in one of those green metal lawn chairs that begin to rock as you sit down in them with her feet propped up on the rail and I would be straddling the white Colonial banister nearest the post.
But she is long gone.
I ache remembering the nights on that porch, bantering over philosophy before I knew what it was, questioned, til I could argue no more, and enlightened, til there was little doubt.
Similar to Carlos Castenada’s student who is sent on a journey, “to find his place on the porch,” I perched there nightly in summer and learned the finer differences between being a Republican and a Democrat.
“You can tell by what they read,” she would tell me.
Future visits, I would scan her magazine rack like some covert spy trying to decipher her convictions. Stuffy, Donkey-loving propaganda, or liberal Leftist bra burner? How would I ever know? She read everything!
It would be years before I discovered that she had been the organist for the Baptist church I attended with my grandmother before she died. This woman had known me my whole life and I knew almost nothing about her.
I watched her dog while she vacationed, watched her survive as a single woman long before it was a choice, or a popular lifestyle. She spoke bitterly about widowhood, but sweetly about freedom, and I think probably made me wonder as well, if it was worth it to aspire to the Betty Crocker dream every other girl my age was having.
I envied her solitude, and house, because it was filled with books and no one ever told her where they had to be kept, or that they should be shelved or hidden for company. Books were not eyesores and I think she may have had as many as the public library.