Helen of Montavesta
July 23, 2013 § 3 Comments
When I was little, we lived at 2937 Montavesta Road. It was a low brick rancher that sat at the opening to Lookout Circle. Think seventies suburbs. Multi-colored shag in the finished basement. The Brady Bunch could have been next door. We knew all the neighbors—most the moms stayed home, so we knew them especially well. At six or seven, I ran around with my friends, maybe a sister or two, but free and wild. No grownups interfered with our movements unless we got really loud or fought. Then they all had equal power to put us in our place. What would be seen as neglect today was summer to us. We only came home when the streetlights came on.
The Shaws lived to the right of our driveway, on the circle. We never knocked, just walked right in, before or after legendary games of kick the can. Mrs. Shaw, Helen, watched out for me, especially. At least I felt like she did. I was small and quiet. Her soft drawl was stronger than mine. I loved the sound of her. Maybe that’s why I talk like I do. She was a brunette with icy blue eyes, and she always had a tan. That was glamour.
The Shaws had normal dinners instead of the faux gourmet hors d’oeuvres we had. I ate a lot of smoked oysters and mini-quiches at home in those days. I remember finding leftover rice the Shaw’s refrigerator, which Helen heated up for me with melted butter on top. This, I thought, is what some people get to eat every day. Wow. My mom had already embraced the school bus sized microwave that sat on our kitchen counter.
After dinner, nearly every dinner that I cook for Cole, he comes up and hugs me. “I love you,” he says. We have both recognized that he loves me most when I feed him, which makes a lot of sense to me. We all want to be taken care of. We feel safe when we’re full and warm.
Helen Shaw made me feel safe and warm, through food, gentle wit, and all kinds of attention. She has joined the great cocktail party my parents must be having every evening. The guest list has been filling up lately.
My mom used to half complain, half brag that Helen called her several times a day. I know that Helen was looking out for her, as she often looked out for me. I will miss her, and I’ll remember her, as the protectors of my childhood gather raucously on the other side.