Handy Household Hints from Heloise: Confessions of a Life once Lived…

Grateful Blog: Day 97: I met a dead woman today. Walked in her house and knew she was gone. She wasn’t there but she didn’t have to be. The house was empty but she was there in spirit. The shag carpeting is often what you see first, but usually it’s the smell of mothballs, and dust. There the 1970’s amber glass light fixtures. The condensed ‘Best of’ Reader’s Digest’ multi-volume set right next to the picture book of the Grand Canyon, the Complete Book on Home Remedies and the Living Bible all covered under a thick layer of dust on a walnut bookcase. There is the ironing board at the ready, the cupboard full of bug spray and Ajax cleaner, and the Sears ‘Kenmore’ washer and dryer from the mid-1980’s. There is the cushioned toilet seat, the numerous pictures of Jesus and the lone refrigerator magnet that just says ‘San Antonio’.

There is the old powder blue Samsonite suitcase, the beaded sombrero from a trip to Mexico, the musical LP’s of ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, and the adjustable hospital style bed, with the rails now removed. There is the box of ‘Good Housekeeping Secrets to House Plants’, the wood paneling and the chain/swag lights. And of course there is the diorama woodcarving of the Last Supper and even a corkboard with several articles clipped from ‘Handy Household Hints from Heloise’ declaring ‘How to make your own cleaning products.’ There is the requisite macramé plant holder, the Rubbermaid bins with pens that don’t work from insurance companies, and the bathroom closet with liniments and hydrogen peroxide with nary a cotton ball in sight.

In a bedroom there was a black velvet painting of a Poncho Vila—or at least his likeness, and there was a picture of a young boy and missing smoke detector and heavy, smoky, musty pleated curtains and, two deadbolts, one chain and bars over all the windows. But somehow after 95 years, and likely the last 50 years in this small house with peeling paint, substantial rot and a suspect roof, she managed to escape it all and I’m Grateful for that.

How do I know that? Well, in her bedroom, under the water stain where the plaster had swollen, discolored and cracked, there was a picture of her on her heavy oak dresser, as a young girl, in black and white, with a friend at some lake. You could see it in their eyes, in their friendship and in the way they looked at the camera. No life or body or house could hold all that and I was Grateful she was finally free…