Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Taking flowers to shut-ins

This is where I grew up in Natchez. This house is on a street called Brightwood, but it was built across a little stream from Montaigne, the antebellum home. (It was built by some owners of Montaigne for their relatives to live in.) My mother's best friend was Betty Shields McGehee who is a relative of the current owners.

Miss Betty, as I was allowed to call her as a child, is still active in the Natchez social scene today. When I was 12, Miss Betty had the great idea to share her enormous crop of daffodils with 'shut-ins,' as they called people who couldn't leave their homes then. She got all the young people in her church class to wrap brightly colored sticky paper around empty tin cans to make vases. Then we got bunches and bunches of daffodils to put in them. Each of us was assigned a house to take the flowers to.

My mother drove me up to an old house in Natchez, and I knocked then went through door (this was in the late '60s and people didn't have all the security locks that they do now). The two ancient ladies who lived there had been told earlier that someone was coming to their door but they still got confused and agitated. "Who is that?" one of them cried as I went through the door. "I don't know who that is," said the other. "Do you?" I told them who I was and what I was doing there but it didn't spark any recognition in their minds. The house was dark and still and gave me the creeps.

These ladies were old and scary to me. I'd never run across people who couldn't see or hear. I tried to tell them who I was but their voices got louder and louder and more anxious. They crept across the room with their canes, travelling slowly but inexorably towards me. I was so frightened. I thought about running to get my mother but she was waiting in the car with the motor running on the street for me. The old ladies continued to shout at each other about who this intruder might be, and I became more and more panicked.

Finally, I just left the flowers in the tin-can vase and ran.

It was only later that I realized that I'd totally forgotten to put water in the can, and the flowers would be dead so quickly, before the ladies were even able to enjoy their scent and color.

I've never forgotten the Daffodil Incident. If only I could turn back the clock and go in and water the things so they would have lived for at least a few days. What a waste. I never even told my mother or Miss Betty; I was that embarrassed.


Jane said...

Elizabeth, I google-earthed Brightwood and it is located behind Linden Plantation and even though Montaigne is not identified on the map I believe I located it and can see the close proximity.

Thanks for sharing your memories of Natchez. What years were you here?

I hope the ladies found the flowers and filled the can with water. I remember my mother visited a "shut-in" on a little alley that ran parallel with State Street between Rankin and MLK (formerly Pine St.) and I would go with her. I guess this was before nursing homes. It can be rather scary for a child.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Jane, I lived in Natchez in the '60s and moved away in the early '70s. Natchez is such a special place to me. Right before my mother died this year, she told me that the best time of her life were the years she spent in Natchez.

Elizabeth said...

Also, Jane, our house wasn't really ON Brightwood - it was on three acres down a private road off of Brightwood. That was just the nearest road for a mailing address.

Jane said...

I think I might know the house. I'll have to go explore a bit.