If I could find that darn genie with that magic lantern, I’d ask the genie to make Erma my neighbor. For years, I’d read her columns, bought her books, watched her on the Phil Donahue Show and just loved her from afar. She would have been a perfect neighbor for me.
I envisioned her popping over early in the morning, her hair in rollers, wearing a fuzzy robe and asking to borrow a dozen eggs. I looked exactly the same in my 1960 kitchen. Her kids were starving, and they needed a protein-packed breakfast. I like to think she shopped like I did. I had the word EGGS on my grocery list and came home with grated cheese instead. I sent her home with a box of waffles to feed the little ones. That’s what good neighbors do.
Our style of parenting would also be a conversation over coffee after the little ones were off to school.
“Oh Erma, I don’t know what to do with my Tommy. He is so lazy with his homework.”
“Anne, he’s probably not getting enough sugar. Give him a Twinkie for dinner.”
“That is genius! You should write a parenting column, Erma.”
I also counseled her with her troubles.
“Anne, Andy and Matt are constantly refusing to share toys with Betsy. What am I going to do?”
“Well Erma, what I found best is to put masking tape on the boys’ hands, like mittens. Then, Betsy has a chance to play with the toys she likes. Just don’t forget to take it off, like I did.”
And when she got sick, I’d make her family meals and sit with her. She wouldn’t even have to speak. I’d just be there for her. We’d reminisce and laugh and cry. Then we’d do it again. I’d hug her really tight and tell her she was my best neighbor ever.
Years later, I’d fly to Dayton to be part of her writers’ conference. I’d make new friends, learn new ideas, and be so proud to be part of my best neighbor’s legacy.
I really miss her.
— Anne Bardsley
Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Florida, with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause. Her latest book, Angel Bumps, will be published by Mill House Publishing this spring. She blogs at www.annebardsley.com.