I remember when I was young, about seven or eight years old, how I use to go outside in the summer and play with my stuffed animals and imaginary friends from early morning to the break of dusk. I was quite a rambuncious kid with a huge imagination.
My next-door neighbor Alice, would watch and observe as I played in my backyard, then shed laugh and go back to tending her lovely vegetable garden. Alice and my mom both had vegetable gardens and would exchange different kinds of veggies through out the season. Sometimes they laid out together trying to get a decent tan.
As the years slowly past, I recall sitting on Alices big front porch with her just chatting away for hours on end about anything we wanted to, really. Shed tell me how she used to think I was such a funny kid when I used to play in the backyard and talk to myself with my toys and animals. While I sat on the ledge of the porch and listened, intrigued by her stories, Alice would rock back and forth in her rocker happily smoking an occasional Marlboro menthol light cigarette. Wed cut up and make jokes about the papergirl she despised because the papergirl always threw her paper in the bushes, and wed gossip about some of the other neighbors on our block. Then shed tell me stories about her kids when they were my age and what kind of mischief theyd get into as they grew up.
Everyday as soon as I saw her out on her porch, Id fling open our front door and run over to her house. However, I never cut through her lawn! No way! I always took the long way by using the sidewalk. Her and her husband Charles spent a lot of time doing yard work, keeping their lawn looking nice and having a flowerbed by the side of the house, so I never set foot on their grass simply out of respect. No one ever told me not to walk on their grass, it was just I knew better!
Sometimes in the evening after I was done hunting fireflies, Id retreat back to Alices porch and wed count them out together and watch them glow. Then wed let them go and make wishes although the wishes I made never came true, it was still fun to pretend.
Charles would sometimes join us on the porch and enjoy the fresh air the early summer evening had to offer us, as hed gather his white calico cat into his lap and gently stroke her soft furry coat until she began a sturdy relaxed purr. Now, I dont remember what exactly the cats real name was. Alice didnt care much for her; she called the cat Sourpuss while Charlie would call her in every night saying Come on in now ole girlfriend. Alice would sometimes swear up and down that Charles loved that cat more then her sometimes. Alice and Charles made such a nice couple, nice looking people for their age and all around nice people.
I could see that Alice had been a very nice looking woman when she was younger as she still appeared to be for her age. Light brownish blonde hair, with twinkling hazel eyes with nice glasses that framed her face well. I felt so close to Alice, I felt she was another grandmother to me. As for my real grandmother, who visits my house regularly because she lives close by, would often visit Alice as well and theyd have a nice talk.
Then, I started growing up. I would still visit Alice every now and then but the visits slowly came to a stop. When I had reached my freshman year in high school, Id walk home in the afternoon and sometimes catch her leaving to go to work. She was a LPN at Reid at the time, and had been for a long time. After my freshman year, I moved in with my Dad in Virginia for two years. Whenever I came into town to visit my mom though, Id stop by Alices and see how she was doing. She was always so excited to see me! Shed invite me in and wed sit in her medium sized living room and talk about old times and new things that had been going on in our lives.
This summer, a few weeks into August I came back to Richmond for good. My mom wanted me to finish my last year of high school here so I reluctantly came back just to make her happy.
The first few weeks I was here I didnt get a chance to stop by Alices and visit. She knew I was back though because her and my mom still talked regularly. Then, one day, a few days after school started again, I finally caught her on her porch just rocking away smoking her Marlboro menthols. When she spotted me she smiled from ear to ear and motioned me with her hand to come over. I went up to her porch and greeted her happily with a big bear hug. She was so excited to see me. I dont know how long I ended up staying over there, perhaps over three hours, but by the time I went home it was already dark!
Thats the last time I visited Alice. It had been a pretty busy year for me so far. I worked a lot, concentrated on my schoolwork, and hung out with my friends. I figure Alice understands as well. I feel bad because I havent been over in quite awhile but every time I see her outside well talk for several minutes and Ill be on my way. Sometimes I still spot her on her porch even on a winter day, sitting in her rocking chair just rocking back and forth back and forth. I never understood though why Alice and I never wrote letters back and forth while I was away. I had her address, Im sure if I had wrote her shed written back. I guess I didnt really give it much thought.
However, when the weather starts getting a little nicer Im going to start visiting her again before I go off to college in the fall and before we sell the house. Its just my mom and I in this huge house now, and she feels that its time to change houses after being here for nearly twelve years. Maybe this time Alice and I can keep in touch and someday shell visit me in my new home and spend the evening on my porch reminiscing like we use to.