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Chief
By Donna Flood
Chapter 16 - From Ponca City to the Greek Islands


Warren was off to what he considered to be his tour of duty, Mariah returned to her home in the Osage, Mother and Dad were working on day jobs, the boys were busy with their small jobs of lawn mowing and chores. Once again I was alone.  We had moved back into the small house but, somehow, I wasn’t as bitter as I had been before Mariah was a resident. She was only there for a short time but had transformed the space into some place  to hold a charmed existence. Her personification and working with Gramma Bell’s values brought me hope.

    Across the street to our right was the home of a family,  who were quietly going about their business. The mother was always busy around her property.  She had two little girls, an elderly mother and a husband. I often watched them while I was in the yard or walking to school.  The woman reminded me of Mariah because she had the same skin coloring and dark hair. Her children, though, were not like Mariah’s in looks, who were blond and rosy cheeked.   These children of Greek descent  had beautiful, long, black shining hair, and white skin that almost seemed to be made matte with powder.  Even their play was refined,  while they wore crisp clothing with  never was a smudge on their dresses.  I knew the woman needed help because of my experience with Mariah.

    “My name is Donna. I live in that house over there and I would like to know if you ever need a babysitter or someone to help clean house?”  I bluntly  introduced myself to the woman  who,  I had  observed from a distance.

    “Come in, won’t you?”  The accent she had was so slight as to almost  be unnoticed, but there was a lilting quality about her speech Americans around this area did not have.

     “Come have a cup of tea with me?”  She was friendly  but,  observing and watching me carefully.

    “Have you ever worked in someone’s home before?” She gently inquired.

    Little did I know this was my first interview, but I was meekly ready to find a way to be as friendly as she was.

    “I have helped my cousin with her children and my grandmother taught me how to clean house.”  This agreement in cultures must have been the thing to make her receptive to my request for work.

    Over a period of time I spent many lovely hours with Catherine. She must have been as lonely as I was for companionship,  because the lady enjoyed sharing the story of her Greek family with me. There was a wonderful painting of a Greek villa,  where she told me she had grown up.  The place was even  more like a story book, than our prairie life had been.  The classic, white mansion nestled into a hillside and was something I had never seen.

    “Who lives there now?”  I asked.

    “No one.  I inherited it and I own the place,  but my husband will never live in Greece.”  Catherine didn’t seem to have any problem with her circumstances. It was as if this house,  where she now lived,  was all she wanted.  This was no Greek villa, not by any stretch of the imagination,  and I couldn’t  understand why she would chose it over that delightful villa in Greece.  Her explanation of economics, freedom, jobs and such, because I was youthful,  went over my head.  So many questions I wished to ask,  but was trained not to boldly pry.  I longed  to know where she had played.  Was she allowed to swim in that large pool alone? Where was the road up to the house?  Why was the house so white?  Did they have to paint it often?  On and on raced my mind and today, I still do not have those answers.

    Catherine was a good employer and I tried to please her. I ironed shirts, little dresses,  and table clothes as carefully as I had been taught to do.  Her mother could not speak English.  I managed to communicate with her and decided she must have been a lovely lady at one time.  The elderly woman was short and about as wide as she was tall, but her happy countenance gave her a winsome way and made her  appealing.

    Catherine’s girls were as reserved as my cousin Mariah. They watched me, quietly,  and with what was a bit of distrust, I believed.  I respected their feelings and was able to get along with them.

    My Native American grandmother was taking more time with me, now, and I told her of my new job.

    “You know, they will test you?”  Gramma Lizzy told me.

    “What do you mean?”  I was totally innocent.

    “They will leave money around.  Maybe it will be a quarter or possibly more.”

Be very careful not to pick it up. In the long run that bit of money will not compare to your wages. These folks will be curious about your honesty and how much they can trust you.” Grandmother was wise, and I listened.

    Sure enough, as I was dusting in a bedroom one day,  I picked up a dresser scarf  to polish the top of the furniture.  There under the scarf was a five, dollar bill.  Carefully, I replaced the scarf without touching the money.  Later,  I saw Catherine pick  the scarf up, and  check to see if the money was there. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her glance toward my direction.

    “Your little trick didn’t work!”  I thought, but carefully, didn’t even look up to exchange a look, with the woman.

    We worked, cleaned, buffed and shined, ironed and whatever else that  had to be done. While Catherine was counting out my dollars to pay me she said,

    “You are most mature for your age, Donna.”

    I took this to be a compliment.

    The money wasn’t that important to me at the time. What did I know of money?  I did  know there wasn’t enough in wages to ever replace the life I had lived in the Osage. Being able to find a niche, busy, and not being absorbed in the things gone from my world was what was making me happy.

 Catherine remained my friend until her husband was gone, children grown up, her mother passed, then she was quite alone as I had been and occasionally I would see her walking to town, or in some shop and we  always visited, briefly.  She would tell me of her husband's new life in Kansas City, or about her daughters good jobs.  I felt it was a permanent loss with Warren, Mariah, and Gramma Bell being taken from me, but Catherine knew real solitude and became more reserved over the years.  I understood that.     

 She told me she was Greek Orthodox , but  attended the Episcopalian Church in Ponca City, because it was too far to drive to Tulsa.  This was the place to where she walked on Sunday.  The church was only about three long blocks from her house and I always felt happy to see her going there, it was a way for her to not be so alone.  Catherine dressed more and more conservatively as she aged and eventually looked like a little Grecian woman who had just arrived in America.  Something about that was so charming, I thought.


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