|Photo: Julian Scagliola
Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writerPLACES
Throughout Lexington and Louisville, places remind me of the people I've lost.
Kathleen taught my daughter how to play the piano. She gave lessons in a ranch-style house decorated in 60s fashion on Lakewood Drive, a classy neighborhood in central Lexington. While Abby had a lesson, I'd read in the back room next to a glass-enclosed patio where uncaged cockatiels freely winged. Kathleen was quirky and kooky in a loveable way. A talented pianist. A lover of birds and dogs. She moved away from Lakewood Drive to live on a farm. She found some land in central Kentucky and settled there with her boyfriend who eventually became her husband. Not long after, Kathleen's life was cut short by a brain tumor.
Lexington Ice Skating Rink:
Kathryn and I met twenty years ago. Her daughter and my daughter were pals at daycare and when the girls got older, they both took ice skating lessons. Kathryn was told that her chances of getting pregnant again were slim, but she was determined to find a way to have another child. She gave herself fertility injections to increase the chances of having a baby. Kathryn succeeded in conceiving and had a healthy son. Just a few years later, she made a bad choice and faced the possibility of prison time. Kathryn committed suicide.
Macy's Women's Department:
Ann was a sales associate at Macy's. She was an opinionated, a no-nonsense kind of woman, maybe in her early 60s. She was direct and to the point. Go upstairs to the women's department to the cash register and you'd always find her there. She was a fixture of Macy's. She never knew my name, but I always called her by hers. Now, the women's department feels empty. Ann died in her sleep.
Sister Marsha was a director and one of the co-founders of Providence Montessori, the amazing school my daughter Abby attended for nine years. I didn't interact with Sister Marsha much, but one time I needed her advice. At that time, Abby was four-years old and she was having trouble falling to sleep. I casually dropped by the office to see what Sister Marsha would say. She immediately asked me what kinds of movies Abby watched at home. Of course, they were all the Disney films plus Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz. She told me the last movie was probably scaring Abby. After our meeting, my husband and I decided to shelf Dorothy and Toto. Instead, we choose funny, light-hearted movies for Abby and bingo—problem solved. Sister Marsha loved children and Providence Montessori. She died peacefully at the age of 75.
School for the Creative and Performing Arts theatre:
Merilee was a beautiful, classy, feisty, outspoken woman whom I adored. A woman my father dated. A second mom to me. She loved to cook. For dessert, she would make her famous honey bun cake recipe. Merilee was a cancer survivor. Because she had lost a kidney, Merilee needed to stay hydrated. No matter where she went, she always carried a water bottle. If the topic came up about her health, Merilee made it clear that she would never want a colostomy. But those ominous words became a haunting reality. Cancer returned and a colostomy was needed. Merilee had made plans to attend Abby's ballet performance, but she passed away shortly after the operation or perhaps even willed herself to die. On the day of the recital, I sat in the front row thinking about Merilee when a water bottle rolled from the row behind me and tapped my foot. I didn't think anything of it until another water bottle rolled the entire length of theatre from the right side to the left side where I was sitting. It spun and came to a stop right before my feet. How could this not be a message from Merilee?
The bakery at Kroger's grocery store:
Penny worked in the bakery department. Once a week as I pushed my cart through the aisles of baked goods, Penny would stop to chat. About her family. About her nephew. And about her love of books. She was genuinely interested in my book and gave me ideas on how to market it. In fact, she came to my book signing and brought her nephew. I never got the chance to tell her how much I enjoyed talking with her. Penny died from a ruptured hernia.
Natalie served on the neighborhood association board with me. She shared her dreams and hopes. Her love of family. The difficulty of holding down a job. Natalie lived four houses down from us. She lost the battle with depression and took her own life. Her husband sold the house and for years, it remained unoccupied. Ghost like.
Hartland Hills retirement community:
Millie was my mother-in-law. A sweet lady. A listener. A heart of gold. An outstanding cook. OMG, the desserts—chocolate eclairs, Texas sheet cake, nut rolls. Amazing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with turkey, stuffing, cranberry salad, and pumpkin pie. In the last year and a half of her life, she lived in a comfortable apartment at Hartland Hills not far from our home. My husband visited her EVERY SINGLE DAY. Imagine that. Some residents rarely saw their family at all. Millie passed away due to complications of Alzheimer's.
Rosemont Baptist Church:
Hunsinger Lane bus stop in Louisville:
Alberta was our maid or as the French would say une domestique. Back in the 1960s, it was not unusual to hire someone to do light cleaning and ironing. Every Monday, Alberta rode the city bus from downtown Louisville to Hunsinger Lane (roughly 25 minutes) and then walked several blocks from the bus stop to our house. Before she got to work, she'd pour herself a cup of coffee. She took it black. Smoked a cigarette. And then we chatted. Alberta loved to talk. And I liked to listen. After lunch, Alberta would iron as she watched soap operas. Alberta was part of my life for twenty years. I never got the chance to tell her how much I loved her. Alberta died of lung cancer.
A field at the University of Kentucky:
There is no easy way to end this blog post.
Places remind me of friendships.
Of conversations. Of choices, dreams, talent, and secrets.
Places remind me of those I have lost, regrets, and of the fragility of life.