Happy May Day Mrs. Goetze!
Once I left my neighborhood to attend college, I revisited my childhood neighbors fewer and fewer times. I was gone three years before I returned home to finish my college undergraduate work my senior year at a local college.
Some time during those three years I think I can remember someone mentioning that Mrs. Goetze had died, but I can’t remember exactly when. At that time she was really no longer in my life.
Mrs. Goetze and her husband lived across the street from me. From a child’s point of view she was always “old”. Mrs. Goetze loved little children. I think she had children of her own, but if she did, they were already gone from the house by the time I was old enough to remember them. I vaguely remember her husband, but he passed away when I was pretty young. She continued to live there by herself.
From time to time I try to think about what I remember about this woman. I remember several Halloweens when hers was the best house to visit. She invited us into her kitchen for her homemade goodies. One year it was taffy apples. Another year it was popcorn balls.I think I remember cookies. She exuded love and caring.To a motherless little girl, she meant a lot to me.
I remember spending time with her. I visited with her in her home while she did her daily chores. She hung her wash on lines behind her house. I helped her gather in the dried clothes. She had one of those pull-down ironing boards in her kitchen. I sat at the table, and she talked to me while she ironed.
I can’t remember how many years my school allowed us in art class to make May Day baskets. I think I remember at least two somewhere between second and fourth grade. We folded construction paper into a cone and attached a handle. The teachers told us to take them home and fill them with flowers. Then we were to hang them on the door of someone we loved, ring the doorbell, and run away.
The origin of my flowers has faded. I do remember that in my yard we had lily-of-the valley, lilacs, bleeding hearts, and…dandelions. I think there may have also been violets, but I’m not certain. I came home after school, picked my flowers and crossed the street to Mrs. Goetze’s front door.
It was so much fun. I remember running away, but not so far that I couldn’t see or hear anyone at the door.
She opened the door and looked around, saying things like, “Oh my! There is no one here. Who rang the bell? ” Then she would spy the “basket” hanging on the door handle. “Now who could have left these on my door? I have no idea. Thank you, whoever you are!” At least in my memories that is something like the way the script ran. I remember how good it felt to have my love recognized by somebody.
During my high school junior and senior years, Mrs. Goetze became bedridden. I don’t think I actually ever knew what happened. She had a live-in caretaker by the name of Clara. Clara took one evening a week off work. I was asked to stay with Mrs. Goetze until Clara returned. Mrs. Goetze was already in bed for the night when I started that job.
To my shame, I remember avoiding going into her room to talk with her. I looked in the door from time to time, but I never entered the room to even check whether she was still breathing. I think I remember most of those times that I did think she was sleeping. She slept a lot by that time.
To my memory, at this point she now scared me. Actually, she didn’t scare me. The thought of having to deal with death scared me. I had no idea what I would have done if I had been more involved and she had actually taken her last breath while I was there. By the time I was in high school, I had experienced enough death in my family that I knew I didn’t want to lose anyone else. I purposely distanced myself from people I thought would die.
The woman who I loved was the woman of my early elementary school days, not this old body in the bed. I tried to hold on to that earlier Mrs. Goetze, but it became harder and harder. I remember feeling relieved when I no longer had to spend Wednesday evenings in her home.
Now I am approaching the time of my life when little children consider me very old. There are no little children across the street in my neighborhood who make May Day baskets. I don’t even know if there are still any teachers in America who allow children in art classes to make them. I hope so. Little acts of love like that can make memories which last a life time. Happy May Day. Namaste. Attic Annie