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If the Walls Could Talk

The end of summer always brings our annual block party. It began years ago when we first moved in. A few of us grabbed our chairs together during the last weekend of the summer and sat out front all together watching the kids play. The next year, we added food. After that, it snowballed. Now we have an annual coordinator and everyone looks forward to the fun. This year, Jane Caldwell was the coordinator and a group of us planned to meet early in the week at her house for the finalization of the assignments. The guys always take care of setting up all of the sawhorses at the ends of the street as well as tables, chairs, and the obstacle course. Jane’s husband was leading the man-crew. Michael Caldwell worked in some kind of publicity job for products. Jane and Michael’s children were a few years older than mine so they didn’t play together. Their son, Ralph, was a bookishly weird boy who stayed to himself usually. I remember one time that Daisy caught him “looking” at bugs on the sidewalk through his magnifying glass on a sunny day. She said that the bugs must not have liked it because they kept rolling over and going to sleep. Probably permanently. Their daughter, Claudette, was older than Ralph, and known to be kind of a bully to the little girls, sometimes mocking their baby doll games. Michael’s job must have paid well because they were all well dressed and lived stylishly. We were going to meet at Jane’s house to talk about the final plans. I walked down with Mags and Judy Anne. We rang the doorbell and when Jane opened the door, we all stood stock still. Her living room was green. Really green. Jane invited us in and we entered while passing glances between the walls and each other. Very, very green. We joined the other guests and started to discuss the plans.

Mags, Judy Anne and I were on the food committee, so we were able to report what everyone was going to bring to the table or grill. A couple of the men always set up a small space for three grills so that the hot food could be served near the tables. There was always a big spread of salads, jello, desserts, and sides. There would be tubs of cold soda from Friel’s and gallons of lemonade. There is a healthy competition among the women on our street in the food category and everyone always put out their latest specialty. New items weren’t always a hit, and old favorites disappeared quickly. Most of the planners left at the end of the meeting, but Jane asked if Mags, Judy Anne and I wanted to stay a little longer to talk. She offered us drinks, and Mags requested that whatever Jane was making, she would “make it a double.” I could tell that the green was getting to Mags. She stays up on trends, but couldn’t quire fathom that anyone would deliberately paint their living room this color. We enjoyed the drinks and talked about mundane topics for awhile. Jane was explaining why she was never available for our invitations to cards or shopping trips, since there always did seem to have been a unavoidable other event that she had to attend. It turns out that Jane had been working, part-time, as an intern at Madame Interiors. Jane wanted to become something called an interior decorator and help people decorate their homes for money. I chuckled a little but covered it with a cough. I thought that I was the one who was supposed to decorate my home. I can’t imagine anyone else telling me what kind of furniture to buy or what color to paint a wall. What a racket! We all wished Jane well and headed back down the sidewalk quietly.

I was so tempted to ask Mags about the green walls. The little devil that likes to start things that lives inside of me was behind the question. I knew that Mags didn’t approve, and she could probably make enough sarcastic comments to keep us laughing all of the way home. But she surprised me when she commented that Jane was smart. Mags said that Jane had figured out that women don’t always have all the answers when it came to houses. Our mothers acted like they did and we were expected to be able to do everything in the house expertly, but it wasn’t always the case. It was a thoughtful comment that stopped my twisted brain from moving forward. I did have times when I felt that I didn’t know how to do somethings around the house. Maybe Jane was on to something.

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