Monday, October 24, 2016

Waltz Me to the End of Time -- re-post from 2013



That? That piece of sheet music came from Miss Annie's house. After she passed away back in '65, the property went to a nephew who lived in Alabama. He came and  spent a few days going through her things, packing up what he wanted -- there was the prettiest little writing desk -- and then he had some dealer come in and take away the rest of it so they could put the house on the market. 

 The nephew was named Charles, if I remember right, and he was real nice.  I asked if I could have that music to remember her by and he told me I was welcome to it. He let me take some of her books too. He said he'd never known his aunt and had been surprised to get the lawyer's letter saying he'd inherited her property. He asked me all kinds of questions about Miss Annie and I told him what I could.

Miss Annie was  the sweetest old lady you ever saw and when I was growing up I loved to go visit her. We would sit in the parlour and have what she called cambric tea --  mostly warm milk with a little tea to color it -- and fresh-baked ginger cookies and sometimes  she would play her old-fashioned music box for me. How I loved to hear that funny, faraway sound . . .  


Oh, at first she seemed older than the hills to me -- though I don't believe she was much over seventy when she passed. She was white-haired and stooped over and wrinkled up like one of those apple dolls they used to make. But her eyes were bright and when I'd been around her a bit, it always seemed as if  there was a girl my age hiding inside that old body. 

Miss Annie had the merriest laugh . . . like silver bells ringing.  And I could see from the photograph of her on the mantlepiece that she'd been a beauty when she was young -- tall and willowy with light hair done up in one of those pompadours they wore back then.  There was a photograph of a handsome young man in an old fashioned uniform there too and she kept the two kind of turned to face each other. 


When I asked her who he was, she told me that his name was Darby C. Bell  and that he was the love of her life. . .  they had been engaged when he went off to fight in World War I -- and he had died in France.


I didn't know what to say...I think I was afraid she might start crying. But she seemed not to mind talking about him and she showed me her engagement ring  -- a round amethyst circled with pearls. She said her fingers had grown so knobbly with arthritis that she couldn't get it on anymore so she wore it on a chain around her neck and inside her dress. 'Next to my heart,' she said.


  

When I went home that evening, I asked my mother why Miss Annie had never married.  Mama smiled.  'You're not the first to wonder. According to your grandma, Annie could have had her pick of fellas after her fiance died. But she was independent -- Darby had that house built before he went off to war and his will left it to her along with enough money that she didn't have to marry. 

'It was a puzzle to everyone as the years went by -- your grandma said all the neighbors thought at first Annie was mourning Darby and after a spell, she' d have enough of loneliness and say yes to one of the men that was after her.  But the funny thing was that she never seemed really to mourn, not really. She was always as bright and cheerful as she is now. And every night  in summer, when the windows were open,  they'd hear the sound of that music box. . .


'I guess some folks mourn differently than others,' Mama said and sent me to wash my hands and set the table.


After supper that night,  I recalled that I'd left one of my school books at Miss Annie's.  Mama and Daddy and  Tommy were watching Hogan's Heros when I slipped out of the house into the chill November air.  I hurried across the road and up to Miss Annie's porch where a lamp still burned in the window. I just hoped she wasn't getting ready for bed. 


I was about to knock on the door when I heard the faint sound of the music box and Miss Annie's silvery laugh. Puzzled, I stepped to the window and looked through a slit in the Venetian blind.


I could hear the music more clearly now -- a lilting waltz -- and suddenly Miss Annie came into view --  twirling slowly about the parlour floor. Her right arm was stretched out to the side and her left was bent up as if her hand rested on the shoulder of an invisible partner.


It was so silly . . . and so heartbreaking -- this bent over old woman waltzing with an imaginary partner.  Somewhere between tears and laughter, I watched . . .


And as Miss Annie circled in front of the lamp at the window, I could see her shadow on the opposite wall . . . 


Straight and willowy and graceful, Miss Annie's shadow waltzed in the arms of  the shadow of a tall young man. And the music played on and on . . .


 
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26 comments:

katy gilmore said...

Love this Vicki!

Ms. A said...

Great story, Vicki!

Victoria said...

That was beautiful, Vicki, thank you for posting it.

Thérèse said...

What a wonderful wonderful story! I hope Charles reads this... :-)

Martin Hodges said...

A gem of a post, Vicki.

Brian Miller said...

the end made me smile...interesting story as well to go along with it...the curiosity of the younger you...

Mary Anne Rudolph said...

Oh my, I got chills at the end. I can just picture and hear inside that house. Then you think about wars, all wars, and what they do to Individuals. And why we aren't civilized enough to stop them. Or have old men fight them. OK, enough stream of consciousness.
Thanks for the story. A gem.

Novice Naturalist said...

Oh, my! How absolutely lovely. Thanks you, Vicki.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Thank you for being you!

Carol Murdock said...

Beautiful !

Frances said...

You've told this so well, Vicki, from the first mention of listening to the music box while sipping cambric tea, to the final shadow revelation.

xo

mountainspring said...

Thank you so much!

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

Wow!

Jim Egerton said...

Beautiful Vicki just beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Vicki, you've done it again!
Deana the Queena

Anonymous said...

I love, love, love your stories. Thank you so much!

L. D. said...

It was so great to read this. It is a wonderful story.

Ellis Vidler said...

Just beautiful, Vicki. Thank you.

jennyfreckles said...

Ah, beautiful. I enjoyed that.

Polly Iyer said...

Love the story. Very visual.

dannie said...

So sweet. A lovely story.

Barbara Rogers said...

How sweet to re-read this here gain. It's still great, and makes me want to twirl to the inner waltz! Keep on writing!

Judith Knight said...

Vicki -- thanks so much for sharing this beautiful story. I dread even getting on Facebook these days with all the negative political posts. It was wonderful to fine this in my inbox this morning. Super to know that the real world may not be as far gone as I think it may be.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Oh, I love this post. It's heartbreaking. But it's beautiful. What a story.

Carol Crump Bryner said...

Top notch! Loved this story Vicki.

Gayle Pearson said...

Thank you! This made my heart sing.