I have a neighbor that I will Mrs. C. Mrs. C is an older lady, in her 80's. She is a nice, modern southern belle kind of gal. But don't let that fool you, she is a spit fire. Doesn't take 'no' for an answer and has a great sense of business. Mrs. C is kind, polite, and caring. Her retirement is lonely and boring for her. She used to live a life of activity. She has a problem getting around and can't do the things she used too.
I told her about my buckwheat problem awhile back. She told me that she would help by hiring me to do cleaning jobs around her house. I got enough money for the buckwheat. And she discovered how helpful I could be. So, after my buckwheat seeds were paid for she asked how much I would charge to help her around the house more often.
Now, I am not the kind of person that would charge my grandmother to work. Seriously, I told her that I would not take any money from her unless I needed it. And I would never take more than I needed. Since the buckwheat thing, I haven't really needed anything anyway. I prize other things more important, like friendship. Plus, it gets me out of the house when I need too. The quiet and the stillness of her house is more precious than gold to me.
We have become friends over the last few months. She will call me over to help her dust or vacuum. And a few times, she asked me over to hem up some pants for her. A week or two ago, she told me that she wanted to help me in return. She drives me places and introduces me to people. It is very handy having a well connected southern belle showing me around Tennesse. And because she has lived here her whole life and owned her own business here for many years, there is not a city, town, or local business that doesn't have someone she knows, someone who knows her, or someone who isn't related to someone she knows. That is the nature of the southern culture. Which is direct opposition to the culture of the north, where I grew up. And honestly, I don't mind the change.
On this particular morning, I had no plans on going anywhere. I was dressed in old shorts and a tank top, outside mowing the lawn. I was covered in grass and dirt. I needed a shower. But I wasn't going to do that later, after the mowing. My son ran out of the house with the phone in his hand. I turned off the mower and took the phone. It was Mrs. C. Would I go with her to Dyersburg for a cigarette run?
She lived right next door. I got off the phone and went to her door. She opened the door and said, "Oh! You are out in the yard today. But will you go to Dyersburg with me for cigarettes?"
"Will it be quick?" I asked.
"It is just for cigarettes," said Mrs. C. And she gives me puppy eyes.
Oh boy. "Fine, as long as it is quick," I said. "I have to mow."
"Well," says Mrs. C. "Go put on some clothes."
I run home and thrown on a shirt over my tank top. I take off my nasty shoes and socks and throw on some slip-on shoes. I keep my shorts on because I think this is going to be a quick trip. I don't even grab my purse. I have my phone and that is it. I walk out of my house and jump in the car with her.
As we pull out of the driveway, she says, "You didn't change."
"It's just a quick trip. I didn't think I needed to change to come back and mow."
She says nothing. We are on our way to Dyersburg for cigarettes.
Halfway to Jackson, she gets a phone call. It is her sister I will call Mrs. G. When she gets off the phone Mrs. C says, "We are going to meet my sister in Dyersburg."
"Okay," I said. Thinking that we are going to meet for lunch or something. "But I didn't know so I did not bring my purse."
"Oh don't worry about that," says Mrs. C.
As we get into Jackson, she says, "I am going to stop at Ima's to pay on my bill."
"Okay," I said. Not thinking too much about it.
Ima's is a clothing store in Jackson on Vann Drive. It has beautiful things in it, but far too expensive for my taste. I would never spend that much on a blouse made in China. I would rather spend my eighty dollars on fabric at Joann's and make my clothes. But that is just me. And as I said earlier, Mrs. C is a modern southern belle and if given the choice she will dress like one.
And as for that, I figured I should just consider myself a modern "lady's maid." Which is mainly, waiting in the background and doing little things for her. Like retrieving the phone she left in the car and holding clothes that she decided at the last minute to shop for. Which is exactly what happened.
Five pairs of pants later, we are standing at the counter to pay. She does indeed pay her bill, purchases pants. And in the meantime, has a 40-minute conversation with the counter gal. It seems that the counter lady is related to her. Her daddy was a preacher who was married to an aunt of a cousin. (I think. I could be getting that wrong.) And yes, it did go something like that.
One hour and 10 minutes later, we are back in the car on the way to Dyersburg. But as She is driving on Highway 412, she says to me. "Keep your eye out for a vegetable stand. I want to get some tomatoes for Mr. B and my brother. We like garden tomatoes better than store bought ones. The garden tastes better."
So, ten minutes later, we are at the vegetable stand. She takes her time and picks through the tomatoes and picks up a watermelon too. About 30 minutes after that, we are back int he car driving.
At this point, it is getting close to 3:00 pm. She says, "I want Joe to do my hair when we get to Dyersburg. But I think I might have missed him. Could you dial this number on my phone?" She gives me the number and I dial. We tried three times to get through but Joe doesn't answer.
Now, Mrs. C didn't say anything about getting her hair done. And I am thinking "Thank goodness. Now, we can just get cigarettes and go home." But no, because at this point I remember that Mrs. C sister, Mrs. G, was supposed to meet us in Dyersburg. When we do get to Dyersburg, we are going to go into a restaurant (I think)and eat. But I look like crap! I sigh and just roll with it.
Yeah, no. We go into Dyersburg and pull into a house. I can see Mrs. G in the driveway. And just as Mrs. C pulls all the way on the property she says "This is my brother's house, Mr. D."
"I thought we were going to get cigarettes in Dyersburg," I said confused.
"No, we are going to pick up Mrs. G and driving to Caruthersville for cigarettes. We had to stop here first."
"But Caruthersville is in Missouri," I said.
"Yes," she says. "They are cheaper in Missouri."
"How far is Caruthersville from Dyersburg?" I asked. Becuase I haven't made the trip in ages and I had forgotten how long it was.
"An hour," she says.
I keep my mouth shut. Listen, she wants to help me. She must have thought it was a good idea to get me out of the house. And she probably wanted to get out of the house too. I don't want to be rude or appear ungrateful. I do not want to discourage her help or her friendship. But it was also clear I wasn't just going to Dyersburg for cigarettes. And now, I was stuck on whatever adventure she had cooked up for me.
Mrs. C gets out of the car and looks onto the back of the property where there are a few vehicles. She laughs and says, "Shit, Mr. T is here."
We go to the porch where everyone is sitting and she makes introductions. There is Mrs. G, her sister. Mr. D, her brother. Mr. T, the long-time family friend. I bring out the watermelon and the tomatoes and stand there looking stupid in my crappy clothes and horrible hair do.
"Well, if that ain't a bonafide country girl!" says Mr. T.
"What?" I say.
"You must be a bonafide country girl! You're standing on the lawn holding a watermelon and tomatoes." He says to me.
"Well if those parameters also include fresh of the tractor then yes. I suppose I am a bit of a country girl." Becuase all that is true. I had been on the tractor with the mowing implement just hours before with the intent of plowing afterward.
Mr. T chuckles and Mr. D said, "You can put that watermelon and tomatoes on that table over there."
So, I did and sat down at the little chair next to it. Everyone piles in on the porch. Mrs. C, Mrs. G, Mr. D, and Mr. T sit down around the front porch, southern style. And begin to chit chat. Which includes this back and forth between Mr. T and Mrs. G.
"I'll put in my teeth if you put on your hearing aid!" Said Mrs. G, defensively.
"I would wear the damn thing if it worked properly," said Mr. T.
"You should have kept your appt with the doctor. It's your own fault you don't have a new one that works," says Mrs. G.
"Well, I guess I am just a lazy old man," said Mr. T chuckling. "I'd rather sleep in than go to an early appt."
"Well, that's own fault and until then, I ain't wearing my teeth!" Said Mrs. G. "They hurt anyway."
At this point, I may or may not need to mention that I am the youngest person there...by a few decades. Everyone on this porch is in their late 70s. So the conversation falls into stereotypical old folks topics. Who hurts more, who is showing off surgery scars, how many meds they are taking, and who is dead today. Now, that last bit isn't surprising for people their age. However, for me, it is a topic of conversation that doesn't come up too often. And honestly, it was new for me. Not about the whole being dead part, but the way in which they talked about it. Casual. The topic of death is so casual. Crying about death at their age, well, it is so normal that if they did show emotion about it, they would be crying all the time. And that isn't any way to live. Most of these people they were talking about were very old or very sick. So, death is a relief that has come after a long and active life. It wasn't sad but it wasn't happy. It just was. And that made the topic casual.
After about 40 minutes of chitty-chat, Mrs. C looks over at Mr. T and says, "Mr. T, take us to Caruthersville in your truck."
"Well, I ain't doing anything anyway, why not."
So like a bunch of teenagers, they pile into the truck with me in the back and in the middle. Mr. T has a very fancy truck. All leather seats with embroidery and scroll work on the dashboard. I had never seen such a fancy truck before in my life. And it was comfy!
But the whole way there, the conversation was..well...when someone said something, there was a question from the front. "What?! What did you say?!"
So, imagine a bunch of teenagers with horrible hearing problems, minus the load music but with all the yelling, packed into a truck, joy-riding at top speed, down a country road towards Caruthersville for cigarettes..and alcohol. Becuase Mr. D wants some booze now. In addition, I have been demoted to "tag along little sister, Mrs. C was forced to bring because her parents made her" kind of a thing.
Some things never change, even when you are old.
We finally get to Caruthersville. We pull into the tobacco and alcohol store. Mrs. G and Mrs. C get out and go inside.
I think they will only be a few minutes. I will wait in the truck with the fellas.
Mrs. G comes back out and syas to Mr. T, who is in the drivers seat, "Mrs. C wants to play the slot machine here."
"Well, we will wait here. We ain't got anything better to do."
Then, both men turn to me and here ist comes. The pervert jokes. Becuase for some reason men think, 'Hey, what's the best way to flirt? I know! Pervert jokes!"
I am trying to be polite. I am trying to be a good guest. But the onslaught of pervert jokes just keeps on coming. Then, of course, the teasing. Oh my god! Why do men think that teasing is flirting and women like it? Yeah, the best way to a woman's heart is teasing the crap out of her for things she can't control, like hair and face and things her grandmother said. Yeah, great. Make me feel bad. I will laugh it off. Thanks.
At the first opportunity, I cut and run to inside the building where Mrs. G and Mrs. C is in the back playing slots. I am not a slots player. I don't like gambling good money away. Lottery, sure. It's only a couple bucks. But slots? I would rather spend that money on a good book or a trip to comic con. I would rather spend my time gardening or writing. Slot machines and casinos are not my ideas of a good time. But I went inside to hang out with the ladies, rather than the old men and their pervert jokes.
Boy howdy! We were in there for hours! Mr. D came inside for a bottle of wine. Mrs. G tried to get Mrs. C off the machine. Finally putting her foot down and begging the lady for a cashout. We got into the truck once again It was 6:58 pm when we pulled out, and it was raining.
Did we have time to go to the boat? Asked Mrs. C. She wanted to go to the boat.
Mrs. G rolled her eyes. No. No boat. For pete's sake no boat!
"OH! ALL RIGHT THEN!"
Did we go stright back to Mr. D's house? Hell no!
We diverted onto a lonely old country raod somewhere near Pictsweet farms. The Missippi River was very high. We had to check it out. Then, all along the rest of the way back to Dyersburg, I had to listen to them point out all the places of old freinds and family used to live. Do you remember this, Do you remember that, do you remeber that person? And in between the guided tour statements, yelling from the front, "WHAT?!" And a repeated yelling response.
Finally, we got into Dyersburg again. But did we go back to Mr. D's house? NO! Not yet. We have one more stop. We need bologna. So we stopped at a shop. Everyone piled out to go in, except me. I stayed in the truck and tried..tried so hard not to lose my freakin mind. She is my friend. I love my friend. I have to keep my mouth shut. For the love, I need to keep my mouth shut. I don't want to be rude or ungrateful or impolite. Because that leads to bad places. Just take a deep breath, calm down, push through. It will be over soon.
They get thier food and pile back into the truck. And fianlly..FINALLY! We get back to Mr. D's house. We make our own sandwhiches and sit in the dining room to eat them.
Then, it happens...
"Her name is Jessica."
"HER NAME IS JESSICA!"
"Well, she looks like a Jennifer to me." He turns back to me. "So, Jessica, you got a boyfreind?"
How can I possibly describe my feeling at this point? I just can't. "NO." I said firmly. "No. Absolutely not. NO."
"Awe, you just need a man to take care of you," He says. And Mr. D nods at me.
I let my reflex take a hold of me. And I laugh my ass off! I put my sandwhich down on my plate. "That's the funniest thing I have ever heard!" I said. "Men do NOT "take care" of women. Women take care of men! That is how it always is! And don't you dare try to tell me otherwise!"
The ladies in the room are smiling and holding back thier giggles. The men in the room look like I just punched them in the face. "Who the hell were you married to, Jessica?"
"A Career Army man," I said.
"Oh" says the whole room and nods. "Well that explains it," says Mr. D. "Well, what do you do for a living?" he askes.
Personally, I don't want to answer this question. So I repsond with, "Nothing. I have bees, I garden. I read. I don't do anything."
"Oh that's it, you got too much time on your hands," he says. "All you need is a man to take care of."
So now it has gone from, I need a man to care of me to I need to take care of a man. Like I need a pet or something. I find this statement just as offensive as the first. This is one of my biggest triggers. And I try..oh LORD did I try..to keep my tongue. But sadly, I did not.
"I do not need a man. I don't need a man to take care of me, nor do I need a man to take of. Becuase in the end, most men want a woman around to do thier laundry and thier dishes, only to bitch about that they aren't doing anything at all. Then when thier woman leaves they figure out how important she was in the first place. Like hell, I am going to invest my time and effort into a man who will not appraicate me for me and all things I do for him. Never agian. I will however, put my investment into a man who will take care of himself. And I will take care of myself, then in the between times, we will spend time together as companions. I will not be picking up and cleaning up after men agian. Those days are done!"
The ladies laugh hard. The men stare blinking at me. The topic gets diverted and I finish my sandwhich.
Finally, Mrs. C wants to go. But first, we have to take Mrs. G home...in Martin. Which is an hour away. (OMG! KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT!)
So, we get in the car to drive mrs. G home. And halfway there, Mrs. C turns to look at me from the front passenger seat and says...OMG! Here it is!...."What do you think of Mr. T? Would you want him as a boyfreind?"
Inside my head, I scream. Long and loud. Inside my head, mind you. INside! Was this whole trip her trying to hook me up with Mr. T?!
"No." I said firmly and definitively.
"He's rich," says Mrs. G. "Like really rich."
"I do not care about that. The answer is no. Period. No. Never."
Inside screaming. What they hell was she thinking? OKay, maybe that works for Anna Nichole Smith. She loved her gross old man, fine. But that is not me. There is no amount of money in the entire world that would make me want to sell myself out to a an old, fat, deaf, three times divorced, rich man. I do not care. I'd rather live under a bridge in L.A.!
And look, I am sure he is nice..or is he? Now that I think of it, I don't think he was really. Pervert jokes and didn't even get my name right. Look, if you are going to ask a woman out on a date, the first thing you should get right is her fucking name! At least know her name! And no, that is NOT unreasonable. And I am not being a "bitch" about that. Fuck anyone who doesn't think so!
"I don't blame you," says Mrs. G. "I have truned him down too. He wants to marry me so badly and I keep saying no."
The conversation drops. We get to Martin. Do we go to Mrs. G's house?
Mrs. C wants to stop and visit someone while she is here.
By the NINE! When will this end?
We pull up into a a very, very fancy house. The huge mansion kind in the posh side of the town. Posh! Posh! Posh!
We pull into the long driveway and park near a solarium as an outbuilding. Not a gazebo, a brick foundation Solarium. Like the fancy kind you can only see in the old Granda Sherlock Holmes Adventures featuring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock. I wondered what the difference was between this house and a full on, full blown English estate?! Because honestly, I could not tell the difference!
And let me tell you when they got out of the car to knock on the door, I wanted to cry. I was dressed like SHIT! How embaressing that I came to this house looking like a homeless waif?! I am not exagrating when I say I could feel my ancestors cringe in thier graves from embaressment.
The interior did not disappoint. It was so nice. And I felt so out of place. But the occupants were very kind and understanding. Apparently, this was normal behavior for Mrs. C. I told them about "the trip to Dyersburg for ciggerettes" and they laughed. "Yup, that's our Mrs. C." They said.
We finally left after about 40 minutes. And we arrived at Mrs. G's house. We stayed enough for a potty break, but...Mrs. C says, "We might have to stay here for the night. It's late."
NO. I put my foot down at this point. "I can't. I Have contacts in my eyes and I can'r sleep in them. I need to go hiome and take my meds, I am already late in taking them. The Balonga and white bread is bad for me. If I don't take them my meds things will get worse."
"It will be after 1:00 am when we get home," she says.
"Then we better get going now," I said.
So we did. It was 1:10 in the morning when we pulled into my driveway. I thanked for her a fun time.
And for the most part it was fun. I do enjoy her company and I like hanging out with Mrs. G too. But I also learned something.
Some things never change, no matter how old you get.
It is okay to act like a teenager if you're retired.
Hearing aids are valuable for conversations when you are old.
It doesn't matter how late it is, in the south, guest are always welcome.
Being old can be fun.
And a trip to Dyersburg for cigarettes is never a quick trip.