“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


My Neighborhood - part 1: Mary

Okay, I know y'all are thinking that I'm not working on any paintings, but I am, and I did this morning. But none are finished & I've decided I just can't talk about the process of getting them finished - at least not right now.

This is Mary's birdhouse, which I've glowed up in my usual, incorrect Photoshop way. Which makes it look quite magical, I think, and that's the way it should look - it's the way her place feels. I call her home The House of Many Colors. Red living room, green bedroom, purple bathroom, full of plants & books, books, books. 2 cats in the yard, an arbor almost crushed under its load of miniature yellow climbing roses, baby pink, fushia, hot pink & white azaleas, lavender wisteria & a sweet olive tree in the spring - later blue hydrangeas & some kind of tall blue flowers which open every morning & close every evening & an owl who makes his home in the tree at the foot of her driveway. Then red cannas - over 6 ft. tall (red dazzlers? red King Humbert?) & tall bushes of teeny red flowers. A gingko tree that turns golden overnight, a Japanese red maple, and in late winter/early spring, white narcissus & bright yellow daffodils. White & red camellias. In her house, she used to have a rotary telephone painted with tiger stripes, and although she's now updated to a push-button phone, she still uses rotary service.

Mary is 94. She's cruised up the Nile & down a river in Russia, she's visited Greece & Egypt, Italy & England, spent time in New York & Washington, San Francisco & Arizona. Bob the cat left me for her (she would microwave ice cream for him until it was the temperature he liked, so who could blame him?!). Mary says he has 2 moms, but the whole neighborhood knows the truth. When he first began to spend time at her house, she called to ask my permission - as if I could control a cat; later after he'd spent his first night with her, he didn't visit her again for 3 days. She said it was just like a male.

After breaking her hip 3 years ago, she's been unable to travel, but still lives on her own, with help from Lyndi (that's pronounced Linda) during the day, and a close eye from Robert, Katie & I during the evening. We pile up in front of her tv & watch news & old movies & argue politics & talk books. They all have gin & tonics, I have a coke. On Sunday nights, JY stops by with food - he says we have a neighborhood neighborhood. We all have keys to each others' houses, and think nothing of running across the street in pjs & flipflops to watch a movie - Mary keeps Coca-Colas especially for me, and we don't ever have to buy chocolate anything - we just run over to Mary's for a Baby Ruth or an expensive goodie from Norman Love. Robert brings her BBQ from Carthage (Daddy Sam's BBQ & Bail Bonds) and if flowers are needed for an empty vase, we're free to cut from whomever & wherever.

So in between paintings & oddities, I'll tell you about the neighborhood. Lulu thinks (via long distance) that this may not be a good idea, that someone may be offended by something I'll innocently say, that I should be prepared for some anger. I don't think so. I have nothing bad to say, and I'll not spill anyone's secrets. I won't use their names if so requested. But JY is right - it IS a real neighborhood. When 9/11 happened, I sat on Mary's couch & we watched together as the first of the Twin Towers fell. When the Space Shuttle Columbia fell apart over our heads, I went to Mary's to watch THAT with her. We're lucky folks. I think you'll like us.


  1. I already know that I like you! I had a neighborhood like that once, hold onto it while you can. We would walk into each other's houses hollering "Honey, I'm home!" Then everything fell apart but life is change, huh? Can't wait....it's almost here....11 more days!

  2. I have had the fortune of having 2 neighborhoods like that, and one long dry spell in between! I am lucky to be where we are. Mary sounds wonderful. SOmeone once told me that you should never trust anyone without animals, books, art or plants in their house!

  3. Hi Smith,

    Thanks for your comment!

    It is very interesting to read about your neighborhood. Mary reminds me of an old lady I met while cruising on Nile. She is very similar to Mary. Nice to read about her.

  4. Lily - I've discovered it's a very small world. Mary HAS cruised the Nile - who knows? Maybe it WAS her you met!

    Thanks for checking in - I look forward to keeping an eye on your work.

  5. I've said it before. I'm movin' to your street. I'm just sad that I'm too late to know Mary myself. I'm so glad that I got to meet her in these pages.


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