BY SHEILA HORNE
Copyright is held by the author.
AFTER THEIR husbands kissed them goodbye and headed off to work and the children, lunches in brown paper bags, got on the school bus in front of the old Presbyterian Church, the women would meet at the backyard fence. Mrs. Phillips with her coffee and cigarette. Mrs. Sloan in her worn housecoat, which she wouldn’t change out of until three in the afternoon. Mrs. Bradshaw, her hair in rollers, and Mrs. McAlister who knitted mitts, hats and scarves as they chatted. Once a month she took them to the only elementary school in town for any child who either lost theirs on the playground or didn’t have any due to family circumstances.
The four women had moved into the neighbourhood as newlyweds right after World War II. They had grown from girls to middle aged women and had raised their children together. Over the years, they discussed the problems with the latest ready-made perm solutions and hair dyes that now came in boxes, the trouble with appliances invented to make household chores easier, and everything wrong with television, the country, the world and teenagers.
“It’s that music, it’s nothing but noise,” Mrs. Bradshaw said every time the subject came up. “If you ask me, these kids need a good swat on their backsides.”
Then Mrs. Sloan would add, “So do the politicians.” Her comment made the other women laugh.
Sometimes Mrs. Phillips opened a fashion or family magazine delivered by the mailman to her front door once a month. The conversation turned to the latest fashions and hairstyles that they decided could lead to nothing but trouble. They had lots to say about the relationship questions in the Dear Lizzie column. Mrs. Shaw couldn’t understand why women had so many problems with their husbands. She often said that the only requirement to a happy marriage was a proper dinner on the table everyday. Everyone would nod and agree that no recipe in a magazine could compare with one passed down from their mothers and grandmothers.
Soon the talk turned to Miss Goady, the spinster librarian who after being left at the altar took up with the married Mr. Keats. It seems everyone knew except poor Mrs. Keats. Then there was that Simpson boy. Not only did he smoke, but he hadn’t cut his hair in a month. They blamed his parents and agreed they were lucky their children were well behaved and their husbands faithful. Of course, the morning couldn’t end without mentioning Reverend Newman. In their opinion he wasn’t godly enough to preach the bible. A new preacher was needed. An older man, who didn’t laugh as much or drink beer.
Year after year the women met. Year after year they discussed people in the neighbourhood. Year after year, they ignored the wood rotting under the white paint of their backyard fence.