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September 2007, vol 3 no 3

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Jeffrey Woodward

 

The Widow's Place

A widow in a plain cotton skirt, her hair whiter than the apple blossoms that she drew her hoe under every spring, there in the corner of her lot, there in her well-tilled garden. Afternoon teas with the ladies of the neighborhood–young mothers with their young children and young husbands, too, every blessèd one caressed with her "Honey," her "Darling"–and every Sunday a walk to and from the Methodist church.

Days that a shy boy brought a baked gift from his mother or a puckish daughter came to retrieve the wrinkled widow for tea. Fair weather would discover her with a spade or a basket; foul weather, on her verandah or indoors, left there to turn another brittle page of a Family Bible, peering over bifocals. Often enough, she'd recite for a child a favorite verse: And the Lord planted a garden eastward in Eden.

With October come and gone, with gray November settled in, one saw her less about the yard. On Sunday, however, you could count on her being there, nodding over her bifocals, in the Methodist pew, in accord with the text of the sermon: And out of the ground made the Lord to grow every tree . . . the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Passing by the widow's place on a winter's day, walking to school–passing by the leafless apple in the corner of the lot where, in fair weather, she'd kept tomato and onion and more–not uncommon on a cold morning to catch sight of her, there in her window, looking your way, looking at the needles of frost on the furrowed plot of earth . . .

the Book of Genesis
and, on the other hand,
a withered garden