She almost wouldn’t let me write about her. She finally agreed, but only after I vowed to cut her lawn. That’s no joke.
First, I had to promise I wouldn’t give away much information about her identity. Then, I had to edge her sidewalk.
Her lawn-man had bronchitis.
“Well,” she said. “As a little girl I wanted to be famous. I wanted see something big, to get out of a small town and see stuff. I used clip out pictures of exotic places and hang them in my room.”
She’s silver-haired now, her left hip is a wreck, but she has terrific posture. And she looks stately in her pearls.
As it happened, fame wasn’t so hard to accomplish. She studied hard, attended college, then found a job selling makeup on television. There, she married a man. He wanted notoriety too. To be a politician.
Which is like fame, only filthier.
Before she knew it, she was traveling back and forth, shaking the right hands, kissing babies, mumbling inspiring things.
“He started off a good man,” she said. “Wanted to change things. In the sixties, he had ideas for water-treatment that would’ve changed everything. He was, ‘green,’ before there was such a word. Fought for equality, too.”
But ideals don’t last in politics. They’re like candlesticks in a hurricane.
“Everyone shot him down,” she went on. “Too many people offered him too much money to push bad ideas. So, one day, I think he just started playing their game.”
They went to parties, she wore white gloves. They ate at fancy restaurants, she used the right forks. They rode convertibles in parades, she waved to crowds. They slept in separate bedrooms—sometimes his secretaries spent nights in his.
She faded inside.
“I don’t think people know what goes on in that world. It’s a crooked way to make a living. It’s worse now. I remember when he and his buddy…”
Let’s call his buddy an esteemed official.
“…flew to Ireland one afternoon just to play golf for a few hours. Taxpayers paid for the whole thing. And that’s the sweetest-smelling story I can think of. I have stories about prostitutes that’d make you sick.”
No thanks, ma’am. I’m Southern Baptist.
After years of watching his morals spiral, she left him. She took her two children and moved to the town where she was born. She started over. She even planted a garden out back.
No more dinner parties.
“I’m sorry I ever wanted to leave this place,” she says, pointing through her back window. “It was greed for more that ruined us. I’m happy now.”
I asked who she was voting for in the upcoming elections. She told me she quit voting forty years ago, since she knew too many of the politicians personally. I asked her to share a few views.
“Honey,” she said. “I never discuss politics with anyone but the Good Lord.”
And then I push-mowed her grass.