When I was eight, my family moved to a little house right outside of Atlanta, Georgia and Miss Posy was our neighbor. At 96 years young she was as sweet as Southern tea and not as fragile as she looked. Even though she was tiny and wrinkled, she moved quickly and gracefully with just the slightest hint of a limp. She had soft white curls to compliment her bright smile. The casual clothes she always wore were ideal for gardening and for making a body feel comfortable and at ease around her.
(this is not my photo; I Googled Posies)
I first met Miss Posy at the garden gate. Several days after we moved in, my siblings and I were playing “Narnia” in the back yard. As usual, I was Peter and Aslan (because I was the oldest and the wisest), my sister was either Edmond or Susan, and my little brother was Lucy. Naturally, since Lucy is a girl, we dressed our poor brother in a cute green dress that was patterned with tiny colourful flowers. He took it in stride, and played the part perfectly.
We chased each other around the yard for a while, laughing, giving dramatic monologues, and ordering each other to act out this scenario and say that line as children like to do when playing make-believe. That went on until Lucas ran up to the fence that divided our yard from the neighbor’s, put his hands on the metal rail, and peered through at the old lady who was watering her flowers and watching us with amusement.
“Hi! I’m Lucy!” my little brother beamed up at her. She smiled back at him, amused and apparently unperturbed by the four year old boy in a dress. In a lovely Southern drawl she responded, “That’s nice! I’m Miss Posy.”
She appeared to be harmless, so my sister and I emerged from behind the tree and ran over to the fence. We made a new friend that day.
Miss Posy’s house had rooms full of knickknacks, toys, and useless pretty things; trash to most, but treasures to Miss Posy and the neighbor children she befriended. Two days after we met Miss Posy, my siblings and I were in the yard pretending to be lions. Miss Posy came out of her house, smiling knowingly and holding her hands behind her back, and padded across the grass pathway between our houses.
“Children! Come on over here I have something for you,” she called to us. We ran over to the gate and she held out her hands to show us three treasures. She gave my brother a superhero action figure, to my sister she gave a tiny doll-sized china tea set, and for me she had a necklace. The pendant was a carved metal arrowhead that held a Native American currency coin. I kept that necklace for years and wore it constantly until the sock monster got tired of eating socks and decided to try eating metal instead.
My mum takes a nap every afternoon. Unfortunately, Miss Posy had a dog; a little yappy mutt that looked like a mop. And every afternoon during mum’s nap time an old man would come out with a wheelbarrow to weed Miss Posy’s garden and clean up her yard. Miss Posy’s dog would yap at him incessantly. After several weeks of not sleeping during nap time, mum got pissed. One day she was at her wits end and she prayed that God would “make that mutt shut up!”
The next day, we saw the little dog dead in the wheelbarrow and the old man was digging a hole.
We all felt sad for Miss Posy, but mum said, “Be careful what you ask for, cause God just might answer your prayers!”
In the Spring the trees bloomed and the birds began to nest. A robin couple built a home in the tangled branches of a bush in our front yard. Mrs. Robin laid four beautiful blue eggs in that tiny nest. Mr. and Mrs. Robin would take turns sitting on the eggs and my family would watch the changing of the guards from our living room window. Soon the couple started bringing back worms and we peaked into the bush to discover four tiny little fuzz-balls.
Miss Posy was a crazy cat lady. She had at least five of them and they ruled over her house, her yard, and her neighbor’s yard. One day we heard a royal ruckus in the front yard. We ran outside to see a black cat tangled in Mr. and Mrs. Robin’s bush and millions of birds swooping and dive-bombing the offender, screaming at it to leave now and never come back!
Mum promptly joined the screaming birds and yelled at the top of her lungs, running at that cat and waving her arms like a windmill. She scared it so much that it finally managed to free itself of the bush and went streaking across the yard towards Miss Posy’s house. By that time, Miss Posy had heard the noise and was making her way over. When she saw what her cat had been up to, she grew livid! As the cat ran past her she made a swipe at it, missed, and yelled, “Yeah you better run you devil!” She came half-running over and we insured that the babies were unharmed. They were fine, but Mr. and Mrs. Robin were understandably agitated. Miss Posy apologized to us and the birds for the disturbance. A few days later, she informed us that she had locked her cats in the basement until the babies took wing.
I sort of felt sorry for the cats, until that proud day when I watched from the window as Mr. and Mrs. Robin taught the juniors how to fly.
I went inside of Miss Posy’s house once, shortly before we moved again to be closer to Dad’s work. One blisteringly hot afternoon the old lady invited my mum and three siblings over for tea and a chat. The living room was small and cozy, and had a wealth of random things hanging on the red walls, cluttering wooden shelves, and sitting on the carpeted floor. Along the wall was a long sofa with a quilt hung over the back. The room smelled of flowers and dust, and three cats could be seen in hiding the shadows and stalking haughtily between the furniture. But perhaps the most prominent feature of the room was a red armchair positioned across from the sofa and in front of a large window draped in red curtains. The effect was that most of the room was dimmed in a friendly shadow, but the armchair was illuminated by the light that streamed in through the window.
I took all of this in as Miss Posy led us into the room and invited us to sit on the sofa. She brewed the tea and settled into the red chair, swinging her legs up over the right arm and resting her back against the left. Miss Posy and Mum talked about this and that while we sipped tea and listened. I don’t remember specifically what the conversation consisted of, but I do know that I saw an old Southern lady with a young heart and I wanted to be like that when I grow old.
People’s lives are like lines that cross and intertwine. Some lines touch at a point and never meet again, sometimes they cross and intersect several times. Occasionally, lines will meet and run along together or two will encircle each other until the end. But sometimes the most precious memories come from the lines that run together for a little while and then drift apart.
Every person you encounter plays a small role in making you who you are. Some play a bigger role than others, but the special ones leave a lasting impact with a word, a smile, or five precious memories of make-believe, treasures, life-lessons, a cat, and a red armchair.
Occasionally I associate people with colours. Maybe it’s because of her warm spirit, her name, or maybe it’s the armchair, but Miss Posy’s colour is red.