Monday, November 10, 2014
Meet the People of Northam
Today, I was supposed to interview Matthew Whitman, Chairman of Wheaton Bank, but it seems he’s out of town. Again. Never fear, we’ll find someone. Look, there’s Gertrude Mason working in her flower garden.
I don’t see Gertrude out and about much, but I know she’s a homemaker with two children. And though their house isn’t in the best shape, it’s surrounded by lovely gardens. Let’s surprise her.
Hello, Mrs. Mason? Yoo-hoo—can I talk to you?
GM: About what? You sellin’ somethin’? If you’re one of them Avon women, I ain’t interested.
No, please, Mrs. Mason—Gertrude, I’m not selling anything. I just want to ask you some questions. It’ll only take a few minutes of your time.
GM: Well, okay, as long as you’re not peddling nothin’. We can’t go in the house though. I, ahh…just mopped the floors. They’re still wet, all of ‘em. You can’t come in.
That’s fine. Why don’t we just sit in those lawn chairs over there?
GM: I guess. Watch yourself. That chair’s a little rusty, but it’s still good. I can only sit a few minutes. I gotta pick some yellow beans for supper before it gets too hot, and then I need to finish sewin’ dresses for the girls.
How nice you sew for your children. Speaking of children, what’s your best or worst childhood memory?
GM: Huh? I don’t know. That was a long time ago. My folks were--well, there just weren’t any good memories. There was this one time though, someone left a box outside our place when my Ma wasn’t home. Me and Stanley, that’s my brother, we opened it. There were some clothes in there, but under those we found a doll and a baseball glove and some candy. We left the clothes, took the toys and ate the candy. I loved that doll. The tag said her name was Betsy. She had beautiful blue glass eyes. If you laid her down they opened and closed just like a real baby. I got to keep Betsy for two months before Ma found out where I hid her and tossed her in the fire. My Ma used to say we was the devil’s spawn and didn’t deserve toys. I know she was talkin’ about our pa. She was right. He was evil and mean and drunk—all the time. They both were. Alcohol’s the devil’s brew and I don’t allow it in my house. Do you drink?
Me? Rarely. But we’re not here to talk about me. This is your interview, Gertrude. Let’s see…how about this question? Vermont has four very distinct seasons. Which is your favorite?
GM: Favorite? Well, fall’s nice with the trees and all. I hate winter. It’s cold and everything’s dead and then you throw Christmas in there to boot? Just a money makin’ scheme, like a body don’t got enough else to pay for. Spring’s better, but I like summer best. My babies—my plants, that is, come back to life. Everything’s green and real pretty.
Summer is lovely. What’s one thing you’re proud of?
My gardens, of course. My gardens look as good as anybody’s in town. Even better than some, I think. And I didn’t pay for one plant. Dug up lots of them by the road, some in the woods. Even traded a couple with Fred Winslow. You know Fred? He runs the dump. He has that yappy dog, Freda. I’ve found a lot of good things at the dump.
Yes, I know Mr. Winslow and Freda both. And I agree, your gardens are beautiful. One last question, Gertrude. It’s hard to keep a secret in a small town. Any chance you have one?
GM: What? What are you talkin’ about? Who’s been talkin’? Was it one of my girls? Emma? No--it must’ve been Wilhelmina. She hates it when we lug stuff home as she calls it. It’s all good, usable stuff. People are always throwing things away that still work. It makes me sick. Did she tell ya I have five blenders? It’s not true. I only have four. It turns out, one was broken and my husband couldn’t fix it, so we had to throw it away. And maybe I do have twelve cast iron fry pans, but you can never have enough cast iron. Is it the fire hazard thing again? I did tell her I’d get rid of those newspapers stacked up in the hall. I just keep forgettin’. She knows better than ta tell outsiders our business. I’ll be talkin’ to her--
No, wait, your daughter didn’t tell me anything. No one did. It was just a random question, but now that you’ve brought it up…are you talking about hoarding? I can see from here your front porch has a lot of boxes and bags on it. It that a fireplace?
GM: Yeah. It’s electric. It costs too much to run.
So, why don’t you get rid of it, if you’re not going to use it?
GM: ‘Cause it’s all good. There’s nothing wrong with it. We might need it someday.
But you just said—
GM: I know what I said; I ain’t senile. Waste not, want not. That includes wastin' time on useless questions. I got things to do. Don’t be in too big of a hurry to come around again.
Oh, all right. Thank you for your time. Wow, she can move fast when she wants to. Strange lady, but it takes all kinds, and we’ve got all kinds in Northam. Until next time…