When I was a little girl I lived in a big apartment complex with over thirty units. Because of the close proximity, most of the neighbors knew each other, or at least knew of each other. One of our neighbors downstairs was an old woman around seventy-eight who my Mom always referred to as Mrs Wallace. If you looked down and to the left from our large living room picture window, you could see inside Mrs Wallace’s living room window downstairs. There were a lot of plants in the window with crochet hangings in shades of brown, orange and yellow. At some point when I was six or seven years old my mother told me that I should go down and visit Mrs Wallace. I’m not sure if they had arranged some sort of babysitting/get Renée out of the apartment for an hour deal, or if my Mom just thought Mrs Wallace could use some company.
|My childhood apartment building on Penobscot Street in Augusta, Maine.|
Looking back over twenty six years later, Mrs Wallace’s face is just a blur in my memory. But what I do remember vividly are the hundreds of owls that covered almost every surface of her apartment. As she opened her door and led me into her dim apartment the smell of perfume and moth balls overwhelmed me. Looking around I saw huge crochet owls hanging everywhere, owl paintings, ceramic owls, framed owl cross stitch, owl candles, owl tissue box covers, a big owl afghan on the couch and much more. The shades of brown, orange yellow drenched and devoured the apartment like a tsunami wave. Just outside of her tiny kitchen was a sturdy hard wood table with a glossy finish and ornate legs. In the middle of the empty table laid a red Yahtzee box all by it’s lonesome. “Do you want to play Yahtzee?”, Mrs Wallace would ask me. I always said ok. Mrs Wallace would get me a diet Pepsi while we played Yahtzee games that sometimes went on for hours. I remember her being soft spoken and kind. Often my mother would come knocking at the door to make sure I was still downstairs since it had been so long. I don’t remember what we talked about during the games, if anything at all. I just remember that while I was in her apartment I felt a sense of calm and relaxation that I never felt in my own with my mother.
I must have gone downstairs to play Yahtzee with Mrs Wallace four times a month for at least three years. I don’t remember how or when our Yahtzee games declined into none. As I got older I would still see Mrs Wallace around the building and visited her a few more times before hearing that she had gotten sick. In my teenage years, I would notice that the light in her downstairs apartment stopped coming on at night. I heard she had been moved to a nursing home. The brown and orange owls remained hanging in her window with plants that started to yellow and die from lack of water. Eventually the window hangings disappeared, the curtains dissapeared and all I could see were a few lone remaining owls on the wall. One day soon after, my Mom told me that she had heard Mrs Wallace died. I remember looking down and seeing a lone pair of owl eyes staring back at me from her empty apartment.
Everytime I see a pair of dice to this day, i’m transported into that warm, safe, dim room, covered in owls where i’m playing Yahtzee with Mrs Wallace without a care in the world.