We don’t notice because we don’t want to notice. Please don’t think me judgmental. If my statement offends then please let me specify. I don’t notice because I don’t want to notice. There, see? Yet, no matter how the words pile up after that statement, you are still we and I am not alone.
I live in a lovely town. The main street has broad houses with deep front porches that bloom incredible plants despite the maple and oak trees that shade the street from summer, adorn the neighborhood in fall and spring as well as decorate the winter gray with bright white outlines of fantastical shapes.
I’ve lived here all of my life, I never married and I’ve grown old in the house I grew up in. No pity is necessary, I have had a wonderful life, met wonderful people and never tired of the street on which I live.
One year, I invited my friends to join me at a tea I wanted to serve. Not one of those mimicked teas of the British Isles but an American tea where coffee was requested and tea made simply for the benefit of its aroma. I made strawberry bread and banana bread and buttery shortbreads and put out the heavy cream, the clotted cream and all the jams and jellies I managed to prepare that spring. I enjoyed having my friends, and while my mother was alive, I invited as many over as I could for her sake. My father was a quiet man who enjoyed a quiet house.
I wanted the ladies to help me pick out a new color for my sitting room. I had narrowed down my choice to a white-blue and an iceberg green. I had abandoned the idea two years earlier in painting the parlor. After my father died, mother and I had the rooms repainted into light bright colors, my father, God rest him, preferred the dark somber colors.
“Well, why not just paint it white?”
“Edith, no, white will take away from my ceramic fireplace – it will wash out.”
“Nonsense it will do exactly the opposite. White is a lovely color. A bride’s color.”
“No,” I said laughing and frowning slightly at Edith. Edith was always mother’s favorite. Edith, divorced some ten years back, it was quite the scandal in our little town but mother always admired Edith’s “pluck.”
“So,” I said to all, “Without me, there is an odd number of people here so everyone must put down on these slips of paper either white-blue or iceberg green.” Each of my friends did as I asked them, and dropped their slips of paper into a wide mouth mason jar and when all the papers were completed we gathered around and counted out the choices.
“Why Edith, don’t be a spoiled sport – you put “white.”
Edith was standing over the steaming teapot, breathing in the aroma of Earl Grey tea, my father’s portrait standing sternly above her. She turned toward us with a look of consternation. “I most certainly did not. I put iceberg green on my slip of paper.”
“Oh look,” said Mildred, the quietest and mild mannered of my set of friends. “There is another paper in the jar.” Sure enough, there was another slip of paper and written upon it, in careful script was “iceberg green.”
“You see,” said Edith, “I told you. That is my handwriting.”
No one could argue with Edith. She was secretary to Mr. Lukeman, at the bank and her script writing was always perfect.
“Well, who on earth put in white?” asked Gloria.
We all stood and looked at each other. The china sparkled and the silver gleamed and I had placed two taper candles on the large mantelpiece of the dining room fireplace. Father never approved of taper candles on the mantelpiece in the dining room. He insisted that it cast shadows across his portrait. I remember the moment distinctly, standing there amongst my friends because at that moment the room darkened as if a sudden summer storm was upon us. We were not alarmed, such storms often happened in the summer. Mildred stood and carefully looking out the window stated what we all expected. A storm was approaching.
“Oh, I do hope that the rain is not violent. My inpatients are perfect and I’d hate to see them trampled before the garden party next weekend.”
We all agreed and murmured our worries about our gardens and the color for my parlor was forgotten.
“Well, Miss Martin, I heard that iceberg green won out at the party the other day. Is that what I should bring tomorrow?”
Mr. Meklen attended the small Lutheran Church I attended. I was reared a Baptist but my mother and I began attending the Lutheran church after my father died. Father was a stickler for tradition and mother and I felt a sort of unspoken revolt when we decided that as two old ladies we should attend a neighborhood church. The church was within walking distance of our house and the walk was glorious on most days. I was glad we made the change for after my mother died, that walk to church felt as if she was still with me, still noticing the color and change of season. “No, Mr. Meklen, I want you to paint the parlor white.”
“White? Well, well, Mrs. Stenam’s suggestion has worked for you. I believe that quaint ceramic faced fireplace you have in the parlor will look very nice if the walls are painted white.”
I smiled and thanked Mr. Meklen for his vote of confidence. I agreed that the room painted white would set off the ceramic fireplace. I also felt that my deceased mother would approve since it was her handwriting on the extra scrap of paper pulled from the mason jar. I always trusted my mother’s eye for color