At Betty’s


In the morning, I can read only in her basement.  Every other room has someone sleeping in it, usually on a couch or floor.  Betty’s house is small, but it’s big enough.  One toilet and bath got seven of us through with a little charity.  I fixed the toilet yesterday and was treated like a hero.

I read on the floor of Betty’s office, the only room in the house with wall-to-wall carpeting.  She keeps a lot of her books down here.  Like her home, her shelves are simple and Spartan, clean of unexplored interests.  She cooks, and she collects cookbooks.  There are also books about God and lots of Victoria’s old storybooks, textbooks, and yearbooks.  Each summer, two or three of Victoria’s old friends come over, and we inevitably open the yearbooks.  Pictures of Victoria at every stage of life grace about every room, even in the basement.


And Betty grows roses.  This morning I discovered Betty’s vases, the delivery systems for her simple charity, hidden in a basement recess.  I found some roses in her icebox last night, ready to go.  Yesterday I spent time in her garden, photographing her flowers.


I have a photograph of five generations: B (my daughter), Victoria, Betty (my mother-in-law), Granny (Betty’s mother), and Grandma H (Granny’s mother-in-law, who at the time was 109 years old).  Betty’s in the middle, the hinge in this lineage.  She takes care of Granny and showers gifts on us, too.

B inherited Betty’s quiet and her gentle fingers.  Betty holds and arranges and mends with entire attention, and her artisan ways made room for B’s art.  Betty’s concentration and fingers, which seem dexterous enough to have four joints each, remind me of a spider at work.

We just got back from ten enjoyable days in Nashville this morning.



Posted July 6, 2008.

By Peter

After stints as a trial lawyer and a church worker, Peter Stephens has settled in as a Virginia high school English teacher. Peter has read several books and poems. He wrote none of the posts below filed under "Passages." Click the link at the end of each post to see it in the context of the author's original post.