“Good morning Lou.”
Lou places a pewter tin on the table next to Doc; this tin wears the scars, lines and scratches of a thousand meals; a thousand messages of love.
“You give that back when you and Jessie are through okay? I have a peach cobbler making reservations in that thing as we speak,” she winks.
I was watching this whole exchange from behind the kitchen wall; my left eyeball peeking out like a periscope at sea. Tuesday mornings in the summertime were my favorite days in the whole universe! I waited like a trained, patient blue heeler for that click and turn of the front door lock. When she walked into our house I knew my day would be perfect; my shoulders went down a foot in Lou’s bubble; glaring at the clock I just wanted my dad to go to work so we could be together -just me and Lou.
She knew my routine and also had the eyes in the back of her head mystery,
“Jessie, come here now; you can have one bite, but save the rest for when Doc gets home from work. He shouldn’t have to cook after taking care of all those people. Now come here, snuggle in!”
I would bolt from my corner like a victimized mouse with a small gap of victory; except of course I was relieved and elated, excited and safe and into that warm crux between shoulder and chest, that smelled of hickory and cinnamon, I ran!
My dad would FINALLY leave for work and our day rolled out like the perfect pancake batter. (Well for me anyway!) Every room had the t.v. on. Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and Guiding Light taught me so much about hardy slaps and manipulation, love and regret, monogamy and cheaters, surprise babies, long hospital illnesses, tears and ohhhhhh, Marlena and John!!!! I was obsessed!
The sheets would billow, bulge and play like a personal pet cloud and Lou would let me lie beneath the soft bubble of air while the parachute gone rainbow fell most luxuriously over my whole body. This linen fort smelled of sweet rain, felt cold and crisp on my skin; I stayed underneath until I saw her smile sneak through a thin strip of cotton and daylight telling me it was time to get out.
Sometimes Lou would ask me to sit still and watch t.v (giving me specific instructions to give her a full report when she returned) and she would go into my mom’s room, shut the door and come out much later with empty bowls, ringed out washcloths and glasses. Throughout the years as I quickly transitioned from knock kneed and scrappy into overly sentient and sensitive the giggling and parachute diving became long, deep conversations. We talked about boys and why they were dumb, mean, awful girls who made me think they were trustworthy, step-mothers, and teachers who inspired me to attempt writing the Pulitzer prize winning novel or gave me reasons to escape through the windows of school -plummeting to my death. She listened to all of it – listened; never interrupted me or filled the room with words. She was the only person in my life I ever knew who could write a paragraph in her mind, read to me through her eyes, look at me and I would know exactly what she said. She gave me my first bra at the edge of our driveway one morning while I waited for the bus; she tucked it secretly and tightly into my backpack and told me to go directly to the bathroom when I got to school. I had no idea I had boobs! Go figure! While my eyes watered she and my bubbe would jokingly compete about who made the tightest braid; She made Doc and I the most tender, mouth-watering, fall-off-the-bone, a thousand hours marinated barbecued ribs that my dad and I would suck on until we both resembled the giant in Jack in the Beanstalk after his dinner!
As I grew into my late teens and twenties and moved on to college I was always hyper aware when it was Tuesday. She never missed a day. She never was sick. She was tall, strong, handsome and bold with the most beautiful almond-shaped huge eyes that lifted her fantastic cheeks when she saw me.
One Tuesday morning during a college break I waited under my sheets until the house was empty and it was just me and Lou. I got out of bed, cried my eyes out in the hickory and cinnamon crux, my home away from home, and sobbed until I was bone dry. I had my first real break up and it hurt deep; pressure throbbed in the center of my chest where ribs and heart meet.
“Jessie, there is a man who will be tall with curly, dark hair who will loooooove you.” She preached. “Just you wait. Don’t waste your time over empty spaces.” I was only nineteen at the time.
The afternoon finally came when I moved out and Lou’s last day collided like two toddlers running straight into one another. I knew it was coming though I was unaware of the cataclysmic knock that would tear all the wind straight out of my soul.
Lou came to our wedding where I married the tall man with dark, curly hair.
I snuck one last time into that soft, safe space, gave her a kiss and allowed her wink to send me off into true adulthood.
We lived opposite lives, in opposite times and spaces; her skin was as chocolate and ebony as mine was translucent and ivory.
Lou, Louise Brown; her life mattered.