They’re all long gone now, the old ladies of Agnes and Rosella Streets. The ones I remember most poignantly are Mrs. Roebuck, Granny Sears, and Mrs. Netto. While not my mother, grandmother or aunt, each of these old ladies of Agnes and Rosella Streets gave form to the maxim “it takes a community” decades before it became the rallying cry for fixing society’s problems. These mother-extensions whose eyes, ears and helping hands guided the neighborhood children deserve their own special recognition on Mother’s Day. For each of these old ladies filled a special niche.
Mother’s Day Reflection on Mrs. Roebuck’s Warmth
It was Mrs. Roebuck who flooded her yard intentionally every winter, stringing a clothesline over the makeshift pond so us novice skaters would have something to grab when a fall was imminent. When we tired of skating, she invited us inside for mugs of hot cocoa, telling us stories of her childhood as she twisted our little girl hair into long braids on the sides of our heads, looping the finished braids into circles at our ears, a reminder of her own long-ago, faraway childhood. The warm cocoa seems a metaphor for the warmth she extended to us, random neighborhood kids looking for a little attention.
Mother’s Day Reflection on Granny Sears’ Intrepidness
Granny Sears inspired with her intrepidness. While our parents cautioned us to beware of wild animals, Granny tamed a squirrel, named it Chippie, and encouraged us to feed it acorns when it ran up to us expectantly.
Better yet, Granny Sears offered us unfettered access to the two most fascinating houses a child could hope to explore. Granny lived in one of the houses, a small cottage without plumbing. She let us operate her foot pedal sewing machine and scrub clothes on her washboard. She taught us to knit inside her little cottage. But the more exciting house was the big house her husband never finished building before his death. This house skeleton was fully framed and floored, but had no interior walls or doors.
With Granny, there was no excess caution, no prohibitions based on fear we could get hurt. We were free to play in her unfinished house as we saw fit for hours, letting our imaginations roam as we climbed, swung, balanced and hung from the framing. No one chastised us for our impromptu decorating or unskilled building design as we fashioned this house without walls or doors into whatever fantasy structure satisfied our day’s imaginings. With the cod Granny’s son hung to dry from the rafters, we were never without refreshment and so could remain for hours inventing ever-new dramas in this big old skeleton of a house in which we’d been set free.
Mother’s Day Reflection on Mrs. Netto’s Graciousness
Mrs. Netto served as our introduction to visiting etiquette. We’d knock on her door on a summer day and ask if we might come in for a visit. Usually the answer would be yes, but when it was no, it was always a polite no, with an invitation to come back another time. We never explored Mrs. Netto’s house the way we did with Granny Sears. At Mrs. Netto’s we were expected to sit on her sofa with the best posture we could summon and converse politely. We had to hold back our eagerness to see the plate of cookies she’d ultimately provide, because asking wasn’t nice. And when the cookies were long gone and a suitable time had passed, Mrs. Netto would let us know the visit had come to an end, always inviting us to return another day. It was in this way that we learned the rhythm of social visits and practiced the words associated with polite entrances and exits.
They weren’t my relatives, Mrs. Roebuck, Granny Sears, and Mrs. Netto, but they deserve recognition on Mother’s Day for sharing some of their best mothering attributes with the neighborhood children.