It takes a village …

christmas-village-1

Over the years I’ve shared several stories about my work life … like my first real job, slinging hash at Carters Hamburgers, the small diner where I worked throughout my college years.  How I loved that place and everyone associated with it … especially my manager Erdie Pugh and his wife Ann.

A few years ago, upon learning about the untimely passing of the one and only mentor in my work life, Jerry Apoian, I waxed nostalgic about our time together at Young & Rubicam advertising agency.

And, recently I told you about mean Old Biddy Burgess, who stiffed me out of my money for raking all her leaves … it was “payback time” for her when my father fixed this dilemma for me.

But there was one more job I had, and I saved this tale for Christmastime.

When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I had many little jobs in the neighborhood, like pulling weeds, raking leaves or shoveling snow, but none of those jobs had any meaning like the hours I spent working for an elderly widow around the corner.  I went over to see Mrs. Moss every Saturday morning.  I would dust all her collectibles, including her most-prized possession, a beautiful Christmas village, complete with a train which traveled around the entire village.  Through the years, she and her late husband had collected many village buildings, figurines of the town residents, trees and bushes, even cats and dogs running out in the street.  The entire village and train encompassed a large portion of her finished basement and was left up year round since it was way too burdensome to try to tuck away out of sight.  It was truly exquisite when the basement lights were dimmed, or shut off, and the display was lit up.

christmas-village-2

Mrs. Moss was quite elderly and could no longer go up and down the basement stairs, so, after I raked her leaves one day, she asked if I would be interested in another job since she had no family to help with this dusting task.  My job entailed dusting the entire village downstairs, as well as her fine porcelain collectibles that were placed on shelves in her curio cabinets in the living room and bedroom.   She said it would take about an hour to do this chore and asked me if $0.50 would be an adequate sum for me?  (Please remember this was circa 1967 or so and $0.50 was my going rate for all the little jobs I did.)  I said “yes” and Mrs. Moss suggested I get permission from my parents to come into her house to do the dusting and my parents were fine with it.

So every Saturday, I would walk over to her house and, while I worked, we’d talk about many subjects, and they often revolved around her life as a young girl at my age.  Mrs. Moss gave me an outlandishly large feather duster to accomplish the dusting task.  I had never seen one of these before and told her my mom and grandmother used old flannel sheets they had cut up and hemmed to do their dusting.

After this chore was finished, she’d serve us tea from an ornate silver teapot.  We’d sip that tea in bone china teacups and my mom would send along baked goodies for us have with our tea.  We sat on high-backed chairs with velveteen cushions, and on sunny days, the sunlight would stream through lacy curtains that hung in the huge bay windows.  I remember thinking how her hair was snow-white and she had high cheekbones with skin that was a pale pink.

When I was ready to go home, I’d leave with two quarters in my pocket, destined for buying 45s, a “Tiger Beat” magazine about all the bubblegum music idols, or “Teaberry” and “Black Jack” chewing gum.

About a month or so into my gig, my mom took me aside and said I needed to do the right thing and just do the dusting for Mrs. Moss for free because this was the neighborly thing to do, just like your father shovels the walk for the older folks in the neighborhood, or we take a plateful of goodies to them at Christmastime.  I said “but …” and she interrupted me by saying “your father and I will give you the money that you would get from Mrs. Moss – do this for us, because she is a lonely lady who likes the company and probably really could do the work herself – just imagine how you would feel to be old and alone in the world.”

So was I going to press for my parents to hand me fifty cents after that little lecture?

The next week I went to see Mrs. Moss, toting treats like usual, and when I was done with my work, she handed me the money and I said “no, Mrs. Moss, you keep it – I enjoy your company very much.”  She tried a couple of times to press the two quarters into my hand and I told her I had to leave and head home for dinner and skipped out the front door.  I told my parents that she persisted and I resisted.

The next Saturday I went to her home and knocked on the door as usual.  There was no answer.  She usually anticipated my arrival and was prompt in answering my knock.  I went around the house to use another door, but there was no response there either.

I tried knocking again, and finally gave up and went home and told my parents.  We didn’t have a phone number for her, so my mom dragged out the White Pages.  Her number was evidently unlisted, or perhaps Moss was not her real name?

I went back the next day to no avail.

I even stopped by after school a few times.  I knocked, but no one came to the door.

Next, my mom searched the obituary notices – nothing; it was as if she vanished without a clue.  Did she take a tumble and end up in the hospital, or a nursing home?  Mom said not to go back and call at the door anymore.

I never knew what happened to this kind lady and I guess I never will.

The loss of the wisdom imparted by Mrs. Moss was felt and I missed our Saturday morning get-togethers.  I remember I felt all grown up and worldly, sipping tea from that English bone-china teacup served from a beautiful silver teapot.

I believe in holding onto the memories that you hold precious and bringing them out and dusting them off every so often so that you can appreciate them all the more.

[Images of Christmas village by Jill Wellington from Pixabay]

About lindasschaub

This is my first blog and I enjoy writing each and every post immensely. I started a walking regimen in 2011 and decided to create a blog as a means of memorializing the people, places and things I see on my daily walks. I have always enjoyed people watching, and so my blog is peppered with folks I meet, or reflections of characters I have known through the years. Often something piques my interest, or evokes a pleasant memory from my memory bank, and this becomes a “slice o’ life” blog post that day. I respect and appreciate nature and my interaction with Mother Nature’s gifts is also a common theme. Sometimes the most-ordinary items become fodder for points to ponder over and touch upon. My career has been in the legal field and I have been a legal secretary for over three decades, primarily working in downtown Detroit, and now working from my home. I graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in print journalism in 1978, although I’ve never worked in that field. I like to think this blog is the writer in me finally emerging!! Walking and writing have met and shaken hands and the creative juices are flowing once again in Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy – hope you think so too.
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33 Responses to It takes a village …

  1. Oh, this is so nice. In my early years, I did those types of jobs for our elderly neighbors. The losses were nowhere near the wisdom acquired. Your post this time broke loose some of those experiences that I had almost forgotten. I owe you Big.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      Glad you liked this post John and it evoked some of the nice experiences from your youth. Back in those days, it was not unusual for the neighborhood kids to go around and do these little jobs for spare change … I think I charged a good rate, so always had these little jobs. Helped my father too and I did get an allowance – I was an only child, but don’t consider myself spoiled. I can’t remember the last time a kid came to the door asking to shovel snow or rake leaves.

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  2. Another year almost over – Happy Christmas Linda all the best from the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laurie says:

    I wonder what happened to Mrs. Moss. Maybe she really wanted to pay you for your work and not be the recipient of charity. Your story made me think of an older neighbor woman I used to mow grass for when I was a kid. She lived right next door to us. Her name was Mrs. Brooks. She was a childless widow who didn’t drive. My mom and dad helped her out with errands like grocery shopping and gardening. It was my job to mow our lawn, and my parents made me mow Mrs. Brooks’ lawn too. Mrs. Brooks liked her grass cut with one of those old-fashioned reel push mowers with no engine. I usually grumbled about it – I wanted to use my dad’s power mower, but she didn’t like the way that mower cut her grass. I never got paid for mowing her lawn, but sometimes Mrs. Brooks would give me some gum (teaberry) or candy. She also used to allow us neighborhood kids play hide and seek on her property because she had some great hiding places. Thanks for sharing the story of your dusting job and Mrs. Moss. Sorry for the ramble!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      Hi Laurie – you know that idea you have makes perfect sense – she was a very prim and proper woman and perhaps it insulted her for me to do the work for free and where my mother intended it to be a grand gesture on my part, the idea somehow went awry? I never thought of it, but you have a good point. I would have liked to know as well. Yes, we don’t always understand our parents’ reasoning when we are young – I would have never asked my parents for the money – they were so strict with me and I was brought up to never question anything they said … “children should be seen and not heard” and I had no siblings that would have paved the way for any indulgences I would have liked. You never ramble – you and I were brought up in the same era and we do share many similar values as did our parents. That Teaberry gum … I was not allowed candy but allowed to chew that Teaberry, Black Jack, Clove and Beemans … the Clove was never a favorite of mine. A pack of gum was a treat back then … times sure have changed haven’t they. Are the kids putting a big dent in your eight dozen of Christmas cookies?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ruthsoaper says:

    A surprise ending to a great story. Maybe it is best just to be left with the fond memories but it really makes you wonder what happened to her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      Thanks Ruth – I’m glad you enjoyed it – yes, one never knows. I don’t know if my parents suspected foul play or why they said not to go over there anymore after trying several times for her to answer the door. We had an elderly neighbor who lived behind us for years, and she passed away while watching TV in her living room. Her friends dropped by to visit and take her out for dinner and she had died of natural causes. That happened after Mrs. Moss, but might have been the same scenario. No use trying to Google around for an obituary notice as it is too long ago, though I could check the Wayne County deaths, but Moss is a fairly common name and I didn’t know her first name – I’ll never know the truth I guess. It is one of those things to ponder about though and I think of her every year at Christmas because that village display was just so awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Shelley says:

    Such a touching and playfully written story, Linda, thank you for sharing. I wonder now what did happen to Mrs. Moss? I’m sure she’d be thrilled you remembered her and that she made an impression on you, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      I’ve often wondered too Shelley – it was a long time ago and she had to be in her 80s, if not 90s, at that time. These days you can find anything by Googling, but this info may not be something I can research. Plus she has a common name on top of it.

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  6. I’m sure Mrs. Moss passed and your parents didn’t want to upset you. Teas with an elder can sure make you feel grown up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      You are probably right Kate and this is why they said not to go back there again. I did feel special having tea with her, and it was the whole concept … the silver tea service, the almost formality attached to each occasion. I was used to my glass of milk, maybe a mug of cocoa and that was about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a touching story Linda. She sounds like she really enjoyed your company! I made .50 an hour babysitting too…lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      I think she enjoyed my company too and I felt all grown-up being with her. She was very lonely, living there all alone and no family. These days, if you are elderly and are online, there is a world of difference than years ago, when you only had the TV and books, maybe crafts to occupy your mind. It opens up a whole new world for people who are housebound or not getting out for frequently as they used to.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautifully told Linda! What an experience for a young girl, and the old lady! And even though it would be interesting to know what really happened to Mrs. Moss it’s probably better to have the memories that you do have of her. Happy Sunday Linda!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      Thank you so much Sabine. I decided I was going to write that story – Mrs. Moss is on my mind every Christmas and I think about that beautiful little Christmas village and wonder not only what happened to Mrs. Moss, but that beautiful village as well. It is best I don’t know. Where did this Sunday go? It seems like I just got up and it is already 10:40 p.m. … the time just escapes me sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You are very kind, Linda, as were your parents back then! (I wonder what happened to Mrs. Moss.) I continue to take the mail and newspapers to our elderly neighbor every day because she cannot walk far to the mailbox area. She offered me money but i refused.
    Marla continues to remain in the hospital with her new shoulder replacement and the serious infection that they are trying to eliminate. My online correspondence may be limited for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      I am sorry Marla will be in the hospital through Christmas – she has had a tough year, two surgeries, not that far apart, and I know it is tough on you. We no longer have elderly neighbors as they have all retired to Florida long ago or have passed away. It used to be a fairly close-knit group of people on the street. But it is a thing of the past now. Mrs. Moss was really special and I always wondered what happened – was she in a nursing home, did she pass away. She had no family – who would be going to house and what would become of her things? Always a mystery to me … I will wish you Merry Christmas now in case you are tied up the next few days and don’t access WordPress. I hope 2019 will be a better year for you and Marla.

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  10. I was so moved by this story. How kind you were to help her and I love the way your mother handled the issue of not taking payment. You obviously get your generosity from her. The mystery of her disappearance must have been hard to live with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      Thank you Zena – she was a wonderful lady and I was just crushed, even though our relationship had not lasted that long. But she was so interesting and kind of took me under her wing. I felt so grownup being with her, not like a “kid” which I certainly still was. My mom was like that – you would have liked her Zena. It seemed back in those days, people did little things for one another more – they were much friendlier, even if they did not run in and out of one another’s home, I often wish for the days of yesteryear. I am not sure why my parents didn’t want me to go back there – I was upset about her disappearance.

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  11. What a story! Beautifully told!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ann Marie stevens says:

    Miss Linda…………………..I like how you worded that: “take out old memories and dust them off every so often so you can appreciate them more”………………………

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      Thank you Ann Marie … she was a nice lady and you would have liked her. It was a nice experience for me and I am sorry our relationship didn’t last very long as she had become important in my life.

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  13. you should write a book with all these stories Linda!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. lindasschaub says:

    I’d better not tell him, and for sure better I’m not going to tell him about Grady. He will be crestfallen for sure.

    Like

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