Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: Mrs. Murchison

Mrs. Murchison lived down the street from us in the only house I’ve ever known that was painted black. Contrary to this dismal impression, she was a sweet and friendly woman who knew, and actually liked, all the kids on the block. Hers was always the first house you went to on Halloween because she had full-sized Hershey bars for the kids on the block, not those little mini-bars everyone else gave out.

She lived alone and, to my knowledge, nobody had ever met Mr. Murchison. Her only companion was a fat orange tabby named Red. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I realized what I thought was the longest-lived cat in history was, in fact, a series of look-alikes that she gave the same name. What can I say? I’m a little slow.

Mrs. Murchison had a showplace of a garden and could usually be found in her yard, in a faded white Gilligan hat and wearing purple gardening gloves. None of us could ever figure out where she got purple gloves, but she always had them. I remember as a child that she came to our Brownie meeting and taught us how to make “sit-upons.” This was something you sit upon while gardening. It was a stack of old newspaper tied with string and covered with a water-resistant fabric. All of us brainwashed Brownies dutifully made sit-upons for our poor mothers. I know for a fact that mine was never used as my mother’s idea of gardening was making sure the Christmas tree was taken down before New Year’s Eve.

But Mrs. Murchison, on her sit-upon, would spend hours in the garden, singing Beatles songs off-key to her Camilla bushes and calling her shrubs by name. She would often let us kids name her bushes and trees for her and I christened her dwarf lemon tree “Jerry.” “Jerry’s looking happy today,” she’d observe as she fastidiously checked for any harmful, wayward insect unlucky enough to cross her property line.

Mrs. Murchison would travel often, to far off places like Salt Lake City and Houston. She knew I loved postcards so she would frequently send me mail from her trips, always signed “Mrs. Murchison.”

Sadly, she died when I was in high school. Her house went to a distant nephew; it was sold and painted robin’s egg blue. And I heard the new people only gave out mini-sized candy at Halloween.

The odd thing about Mrs. Murchison is that nobody ever knew her first name.

No comments: