Plus ça change … My Old Neighborhood

Our friend, Marian, my sister, and I had a sort of flea market sale on Marian’s front lawn.

We took Marian’s parents’ card table and set it up near the street. We collected junk from our garages and old toys we didn’t want. Most of them were broken. We set out three lawn chairs. We took one old vase and put flowers in it from her mom’s garden for decoration, plopped into the chairs, and we waited.

Marian lived on the main street. That’s why we chose her front lawn. We called out to cars, ran into he middle of the street to signal when we saw a car coming. Nobody would stop.

Then a limousine pulled up. It was gorgeous — a gray and black two-tone. It was long. The back window rolled down.

The passenger was an elegant woman in a hat with a veil, a fur stole, and long white gloves. She could have been anybody. We were not wealthy, but there were affluent people in town.

Movie stars lived in our town. Jack Carson of ‘The Strawberry Blonde’ lived in the big pink house in the center of town, as everyone knew. When the priest came to visit, he said Anne Shirley was in our parish. She played Suellen in ‘Gone with the Wind.’

Maybe the lady in the limo was Hedda Hopper. Could have been. We’ll never know.

She asked how much the flowers were. We looked at each other. We had price tags on everything else but weren’t selling the flowers. They were — you know — “decoration”

They weren’t for sale.

We had no clue how much to charge. She offered, several times, but we said no. They weren’t for sale. She tried but finally gave up. Said it was too bad and thank you and told the driver to go.

We just didn’t know what was a fair price. We never bargained for having to bargain, and anyway they were Marian’s mom’s flowers — not ours.

We did not have permission to sell them.


In 1994 I began teaching full time at a local university. Hours were flexible. I was able to take Fridays off if I was not needed on campus. It was Fall, and I would take my parents for rides to see the Fall colors. So I took them to the old neighborhood.

When we lived there, the woods behind our house had been two miles long to a lake at the end. They had belonged to Dr. A____ who had orchards, the lake, and all those woods. We used to walk through the woods to the lake and see the impressions in the tall grass where the deer had slept beneath the apple trees the night before. After he died, the family sold off all the property, and it was developed.

So now, off of our old street was a new side street that led back up the hill and behind our old house through a new neighborhood. They had not cut down many trees. They left the woods pretty much intact around all the new homes.

We approached the curve that would back up on our old property and show the back of our old house. We could see the house and back yard through the patch of woods that still belonged to the new owner of the house that my parents had bought in 1947 and where my sister and I had grown up.

After the curve, the new street ran parallel to the main street where Marian had lived. We rounded the curve. There were new houses, but the woods were still thick all around so, of course, many, many leaves all over the place with some raked into piles at the curb. It was Fall.

Suddenly on the left, three little girls popped out of the leaves into the middle of the street shouting and trailing leaves onto the macadam. Then they ran back to the left to an old table on the edge of the lawn. It was covered with junk and a sign. Junk they were selling — old toys etc. They called to us as I drove past very carefully and slowly. No. I did not stop and buy. I was laughing too hard.

There weren’t any flowers on the table. Otherwise, this neighborhood hadn’t changed at all!

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