No fence bordered the yard of brown dirt that surrounded the Olive tree. No brick outlined flowerbeds where no junipers grew. The parkways held only leafless elms trees, one per each lot. The house was a plain yellow. Not butter yellow, nor lemon yellow, but something pastel and springy in thought, with fake white fixtures that were reminiscent of shutters. Artsy fartsy fake shutters, so popular on tract ranch style homes in the late fifties. The roof over the front step was supported by a white post adorned with the numbers 12021, leading to a plain and multi-windowed door with no curtains.
My father pulled the Buick into the driveway that curved, from the street to the garage, past the front step. From my car seat I could see between my parents to the house and the woman washing the windows. A tall black woman whose stepladder was punching holes into the earth and slowly sinking under her weight. Her gray uniform stretched and rippled over her back as her arm polished the plate glass window of the empty house. We sat there watching, quiet, intent. Only Dale fussed in his sleep, gently cradled my mother’s arms.
I don’t remember getting out of the car, maybe we didn’t. That time.
Days later we did, moving our meager possessions and hand me down furniture in to our new home. Soon a split rail fence would border green lawns. Roses, fed a healthy diet of Spanish mackerel and sea bass, would climb the cyclone fence in the back yard under the Chinese Elm, and flowerbeds would be bordered in brick to seemingly hold back the junipers that my mother planted. Dale and I would be joined by Denise within the year, one Sunday morning she would fall down on that front step splitting her forehead and needing stitches. Dee would be followed by Darryl, who would for years be known as Buddy. I would get my fingers smashed between the car door and the fence when Dale decided he wanted to drive, at age four.
I never knew her name, she worked for a cleaning company hired by the contractor (I assume,) but she has always been my first memory.
I want to thank Jake for the topic, she ran it earlier this month, from Chapter 28 in the Maass workbook: Setting and Psychology of Place.
Pont-Croix, Brittany VIII
23 hours ago