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