This Halloween I began to think of Miss Davis our neighbor and miss her mightily.
Where have you gone, Miss Davis?
You have gone to God, but if I could, I would be a boy again and knock on your door and say: “Trick or treat.” You would give me a red candy apple, almost the only unwrapped candy we could eat, because you were Miss Davis and my mom knew your gentle soul. As a most unfortunate reflection on my juvenile taste, I preferred a Snickers bar or some other piece of store bought confections, but they were very yummy and I now, with more mature palate, would give a good bit for a bite of one of those sinfully sweet apples.
We could use you Miss Davis, down the hill, across the street, next door. Sadly, neighbors are not as they were, because we are not as were were. The times are better in many ways, thank God, but worse in others. Thank God for progress, but God help us find the kindness, generosity, neighborly virtues of Miss Davis.
She lived alone down the hill in a red brick house filled with what, to my childish eyes, were many beautiful things. If you came to see Miss Davis she would almost surely give you a treat and Mom warned us about admiring anything in her house too much or she might give it to us!
When I think of being nice and kind, always my heart turns to Miss Fanny Davis.
I have intentionally not checked my half-century old memories with Mom and Dad, because I am looking for the residue of a life well spent on a boy. If my memory is wrong in some detail, then still this is what her bounty left in my mind and heart: a haze of generosity, encouragement, and a safe place to get a glass water on a scorching summer day.
Blue sky. Green newly cut grass. Red brick house. Cold water.
That’s what I recall.
Did she work with the hearing impaired? That’s what I dimly recall. She had, I think, audio books: reading made sound and this was a wonder. They were on records: large slabs of vinyl that held so little that one book required countless records. Mayhap or I might slowly be attributing to her every childhood nicety of a certain sort. If so, then she is a worthy placeholder for every kindness.
There was one almost-friend who never became a close friend, because she was mean to Miss Davis! Who would scare the kindest lady in our town? Miss Davis, however, could not (I think!) quite bring herself to dislike even this little malefactor.
All this is very little to remember of a soul: childish recollections that are mostly centered on stuff and my reactions to her kindness. How I wish I had been just a bit older to hear her stories, her talk!
The minister and PBS personality Fred Rogers is having a moment: we miss his gentleness.
But I know this: I knew a gentle soul, a generous soul that loved grubby children and gave us apples, water, and gifted many. This was so much: the big impact of being consistently nice and kind.
One thought: perhaps this Halloween, Mrs. Hope and I can answer the door and give generous handfuls of wrapped candy (less trusting times) and decorate “big time.” We can be nice and kind knowing that, just perhaps, someone can view Saint Anne’s Villa on No Hill Whatsoever as a jolly house full of merriment.
We can walk as she walked making nostalgia a nudge to present niceties and kindnesses.
God bless you Miss Davis. Pray for us.