MAY AND DECEMBER

Every precocious little girl should have an old lady for a friend. Adults are much more interesting than children. Adults know about the world. Adults know great big words, and use them without affectation. For a child who is easily bored with childish things, an older woman can be the friend that changes life forever.

My lady friend was named Mrs. Mason. She lived next door with her irascible husband Kermit, their two adultish children, and lots and lots of books. Mrs. Mason (I was absolutely NOT allowed to call her Rebecca) had a college education, a charming lack of commitment to keeping house, and a real LIBRARY. In our house, that room was called a “rec” room, and it had our TV in it. At the Masons, the television was in the living room, and the big room on the first floor was full of books.

I went over to the Masons’ house just about every day after school. I was always welcome. I followed Mrs. Mason around, watching her make supper, plant seeds, or we just sat and talked. We talked about adult things, like politics and the neighbors. I gave my opinion, and she listened. Mrs. Mason was a terrible cook, and so when she wanted to make something good, she always asked for my help. We would make a treat, and go downstairs to the library while we waited for it to bake. Mrs. Mason would bring the laundry into the library and do some ironing, while I browsed through the books, looking for a good one. I could borrow any book I wanted to. Some of the books I read from Mrs. Mason’s library included “The Thirteen Clocks,” which scared the daylights out of me; “The Complete Works of Rabelais,” which luckily had some illustrations that gave a rough idea of the goings on; and “Wuthering Heights,” which Mrs. Mason and I both LOVED, and which we discussed at length.

I was an eccentric child, and reveled in my friendship with the Mason family. None of them minded my constant presence, and all gave me the respect that most adults reserve for each other and rarely grant to kids. Apparently, the Masons were also eccentrics, but I didn’t realize that. I thought all next door neighbors dried their own herbs, dabbled in oil painting, let all the dishes sit in the sink to wash “tomorrow,” and listened to classical music on the stereo full blast.

My Mother worried that I was an annoyance next door, and she tried her best to interest me in more age appropriate pursuits, like the Girl Scouts, roller skating, and dancing lessons, but I remained steadfastly devoted to Mrs. Mason. Finally, my mother gave up, and Mrs. Mason and I continued being best chums. We experimented in making our own ink out of flowers, which didn’t work. We grew cactuses. We painted faces on rocks, and placed them artfully in the garden. But more than anything, we talked about books.

When I went to high school, I saw less and less of Mrs. Mason, who seemed very understanding. We were still very friendly, but I just ran out of spare time. However, until I got married and moved away, I made the trip next door once in awhile.

I am now at about the same age that Mrs. Mason was when we met. I don’t have a “library” in my house, but I wish I did. I am a bit eccentric. I actually HAVE dried some herbs successfully. I sometimes let the dishes sit in the sink for awhile.

But I don’t have a seven year old best friend.

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