It was one of those big orange moving trucks. That was what caught her eye.
Mary Szabowski swayed by the window, gripping her walker. She had been on her way to John’s faded old recliner, ready for her daily dose of Good Morning America, but this promised to be much more interesting.
A big orange struck filling half the street? That meant a corporate move from somewhere far away. Or someone with more money than pick-up-driving friends. But why would someone like that move into this neighborhood? Mary shifted her weight and adjusted her grip not he walking frame. Her feet were numb in her hard-soled slippers and she would have to sit down before long. Not until I get a look at the new neighbors.
Moves around here ranged from a procession of pickups and station wagons disgorging laundry baskets overflowing with possessions, to the occasional Two Men and A Truck move — usually on the way out, when the babies were preteens and Dad and finally been promoted often enough to qualify for a crippling mortgage in one of the new developments eating up the land where Mary had spent childhood summer afternoons on friends’ farms. Not that anyone farmed anymore, except those incomer hippie-types with their brown clothing and their farmers’ markets and their godless, ungroomed children.
The long shadow of a silver Minivan slunk around the corner, followed by the car itself. It gleamed, almost pink in the early morning sun. It pulled up outside Number 4 and the doors popped open. The rear doors slid, like something from a B-movie — automatic, Mary noted. You could tell about these things, even from a distance. With a grunt, she shuffled around the break-open between her two tall living room windows to see if she could get a look at the big car’s plates. Wheezing past a lifetime encased in glass and wood — the crystal champagne flutes Mitzi had given them on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary; a sugar bowl from her grandmother’s china set; the track and field trophy John Jr had won, senior year in high school; and frame upon frame filled with pictures of people looking as they had when Mary had still seen them regularly — she lunged at the second windowsill, slid the fingers of her free hand between the vinyl mini blind’s slats.
Massachusetts plates? They had come a long way. Putting it all together, she’d have to say he’d come to work at one of those, what did they call them now, ‘life sciences’ companies that powered the greater Philadelphia region. Or it could be ‘her’ whose job had moved them, Mary reminded herself. She felt the familiar stab of pleasure and bitterness at the fortunes of women half her age. She shoved it aside. She was turning into another Mitzi, and she would not let that happen!
Two children tumbled out of the open doors, scrambling up the driveway — a boy and a girl she thought, though this seemed to be one of those years when it was fashionable for boys and girls to wear each others’ hair and dress in bright, baggy unisex clothes, so she couldn’t really be sure.
Her knees trembled. She really would have to sit down soon — and that nice Colin Firth was due on GMA this morning. She wouldn’t want to miss that. Still, she could manage a few more minutes at the window. The new neighbors were getting out of the car now, and who knew if she’d live long enough to enjoy another moving day, at her age. You wouldn’t get to watch this kind of thing at that ‘care community’ in Ohio that John Jr kept dropping hints about. Just old fogies like her, trailed by a Barcalounger and a scant few boxes of mementos to clutter up a single, uniform shelf in their rooms. Mary clucked her tongue and raised the arch eyebrow that had once been the terror of generations of children passing through the halls of Forgetown Elementary, not to mention the former child-inhabitants of Phoenix Street. He won’t get me into a old folks’ home, she vowed. Not while I have my wits about me. Dropping all pretense now, Mary fiddled with the blinds until they were wide open and turned her full attention back to Number 4, while her legs still held out.
Come back tomorrow for the next episode: “On Phoenix Street” or subscribe to receive new episodes by email.