This week my writer’s office was beginning to look like a nineteenth century bear pit. It was long overdue for some spring cleaning.
As I dutifully pulled everything out of the cabinet that serves as a depository for stuff I can’t part with, I found a relic . It was a doll and she was crushed underneath the manuscript for my doomed Broadway play entitled “Single File,” a Porky Pig talking puppet that no longer talks, and my mother’s mink boa that I keep in case I get invited to a 50s party.
The memories began pouring in by buckets.
I was eight years old when I met Mrs. Lloyd. She lived in the big old mansion that loomed high on a hill next door to the house where I grew up. She had chickens in the back yard along with vegetables and a real life scarecrow that scared me to death.
She strolled through her garden every day with her cane. I would watch her talk to her plants from my viewpoint atop the second story of my bunk bed. Occasionally I would venture out to chat with her.
I considered those conversations borderline intellectual, but in retrospect, she must have been amused by the musings of an eight – year – old diva who didn’t have a clue about what was happening in her world unless it was reflected in the dialog of “I Love Lucy.”
She seemed worldly and wise! I paid her a visit one day while she was reading a book. She got up to go to the kitchen and left her book open on the chair. I innocently turned it over to see what she was reading….”Return to Peyton Place!”
Oh my gosh. For those old enough to remember, that book was banned in some areas in the 1950s. It was considered outrageous. (I never told a soul about her taste in literature.)
Nevertheless, Mrs. Lloyd seemed magical to me. She had many talents, but the most fascinating was her ability to take remnants of fabric and some chicken feathers and create dolls.
She gave me one of her dolls for my twelfth birthday, and I named her Susie. She had blond pigtails and leather shoes. I expect the only reason Susie survived my adolescence was because in another year my attention would turn to boys. Susie didn’t get much play time from that point forward. She sat on my bunk bed and held court over my collection of Teddy bears.
I haven’t thought of Mrs. Lloyd in 45 years until yesterday when I excavated Susie.
She still had that sweet smile, though it was looking a little lopsided since the paint on half her mouth had disappeared. But all in all, she has weathered the years better than I have.
It occurred to me I never knew Mrs. Lloyd had a first name. I called Daddy and he couldn’t remember either, but thinks it was Mary.
Spring cleaning seems a lot like “excavation” to me. Everything holds a clue to my past. But Susie is one of the best “finds” of my archaeological expedition.
(P.S. – I didn’t throw anything away – just dusted it off and put it all back till next year.)