A Very Happy Woman lives down the street. I have met her several times but for some reason, her name has not stuck with me. It is something friendly, like Maisie or Daisy. It could be Georgia.
I don’t think she knows my name either. She just says hello there, or beautiful morning isn’t it. I often see her on my way home, after walking my daughter to school. She might be pulling weeds or squinting at something high up on a branch. Anything good up there, I ask. I love this time of year, she says, or, I thought I saw something.
This morning she was up early. My daughter and I were on our way to school, and spotted her standing on the lawn, in a royal blue tunic, flowy gray pants and strappy sandals. Her white hair was freshly combed and she poked at jacaranda petals with her tortoise shell cane. She looked like a social worker called in to testify on Law & Order. She saw us coming and waved her cane.
You look happy this morning, I said. It’s my birthday, she replied, leaning forward with both hands resting on her cane. Happy birthday, we said. How exciting, I added.
My daughter asked what she was doing for her birthday. Funny you should ask, I am about to walk down to the lake. I suggested she look for the two duck families I saw there yesterday. Perfect, that would be lovely. She told us last week she saw the most magical thing we would not believe it. She leaned down to look my daughter in the eye and, as if she couldn’t believe it herself, whispered, a black swan was dancing on the surface of the water. The woman swayed her arms back and forth as she stood up, mimicking the bird. She said she had never felt luckier in her life, to see a black swan dancing.
I’m eighty-three, she said, answering a question we hadn’t asked. Wonderful, I said, hoping that was the appropriate response. She nodded. It is wonderful. It’s not that old, she said. I used to think it was but it’s not anymore. She dropped a tissue. When I picked it up, I noticed it was folded into a triangle, the edges carefully tucked in.
The Very Happy Woman told us her daughter dropped off the most beautiful plant. She really hadn’t wanted anything for her birthday, but then again this plant is lovely. She doesn’t like fragrance of any kind and this plant is perfect in that it doesn’t smell and it is awfully nice to look at. It was thoughtful of her daughter to come by this morning because she has a very busy job and it is difficult for her to make time. But today she made the time, and someday we must see the plant because it is just lovely.
We said goodbye and continued walking. She’s nice, said my daughter, leaping over a crack. We talked about feelings you get from people, and how amazing it must have been to see a black swan dancing on the lake. We agreed to keep our eyes open.