Ol’ Mrs. Fields
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It was the first place I remember remembering. An upstairs two-bedroom apartment, my parents and little sister in one room, my big brother and I in the other. Downstairs lived an old black lady, a widow, half the time using the end of her broom to pound her ceiling, our floor, as a way of letting us know we were running around too much, the other half of the time sweeping outside her front door. Ol’ Mrs. Fields, always with her broom, or at least it seemed.
“Never have your ceiling be someone else’s floor,” we’d sometimes hear her murmuring. “Oh Howard, how right he was, God rest his soul.”
She wasn’t one to hold grudges though, occasionally inviting mama down to fill one of two porch chairs over lemonade, some of her observations and old sayings ending up staying with me for a lifetime.
Whenever a siren could be heard; “someone’s dyin’, be grateful you livn’.”
Whenever a domestic disturbance was underway; “only on deathbed most folks love unconditionally.”
Whenever we’d run through her little dirt garden and track it on up past her porch; “get back here and make right your wrong.”
That dirt garden, it’s something we never understood. Mrs. Fields never grew a thing in it, and I don’t think ever tried, yet she’d be out there every single day sweeping the dirt evenly across it as if she were frosting one of her cakes. Only years later while in a college class did I come across the possible answer that had left me puzzled throughout childhood.
Buddhist monks had been doing it for centuries, as a meditative practice for keeping peace, balance, harmony. Could that have been what Ol’ Miss Fields was doing during her later years in life?
With all her observations and insights, yeah, being the wise elder of our apartment complex she was, I like to think so.
Tip jar with a purpose…:)