What can YOU say in six sentences?
Etta stood in the center of her living room, feet planted slightly apart for balance, and surveyed all of it. The assisted living apartment where she was about to move was a quarter of the size of this house where she and Herman had raised a family and grown old.
One out of every four possessions, she thought, I only get to keep one out of every four beds, chairs, lamps, tables, paintings, china platters and rugs.
“You’re just downsizing, Ma, that’s all it is,” her kids had said, promising to keep the other three-fourths of her tangible memories intact.
On moving day, Etta rode away from the house in her daughter’s Chevy Malibu, the back seat piled high with things she didn’t trust to the movers. In the trunk, folded flat was a small, worn card table, decks of Bicycle playing cards – the kind with the extra large suits and numbers – and her “historical artifact,” a three-ring binder with canasta scores dating back to August 1956, the day she’d first met Gert.
“This place is real pretty, Hon,” Gert said on her first visit to Etta’s new apartment in the seniors’ complex.
Etta stood by a window that looked out on a Gold’s Gym parking lot, mentally substituting her old back yard. She’d set out a tray of cheese and cherry Danish and fresh coffee for Gert, but there was a stiffness between them. She worried that maybe it had been too much of a hassle for Gert to ride two buses to get there, feared that she wouldn’t visit her any more, ending their canasta games forever.
Instead, it was Gert who said softly, “Etta, I have to tell you, when I saw the card tables in the rec room downstairs, I was afraid that you would find a new canasta partner, and not invite me over any more.”
Etta pointed to the ring binder with a shaking hand and said, “Well, I sure as hell can’t quit now, Gertrude Baumeister, because I tallied up our scores, and you are ahead by 2,934 damn points.”