I miss you, Ruth Wilson.
When we moved in down the street from my sister-in-law (SIL), she was full of stories about the neighbours. She especially loved to tell stories about the lady who lived next door to her, Ruth Wilson.
Ruth was in her 80s, very spry, always working in the garden. And according to my SIL, the “nosy neighbour.” If anything was going on in the street, Ruth knew about it. She was also the little old lady who would call the truant officer on any child or teenager ignorant enough to hang out close by.
I admit, I enjoyed the stories and laughed at SILs portrayal of her. I met her a couple of times in passing, and she seemed nice enough. But because it was all at the other end of the street, it was an amusement, no more.
Fast forward two years and my SIL’s family is moving back to Canada. And we bought her house. And inherited the neighbours.
The last thing my SIL told me before she left was “Ruth will be at your door within moments of your last piece of furniture being in!” And I laughed. But she was right.
Ruth was frequently at my door. “Today I’m going to teach you how to trim your hydrangeas!” she’d announce, and drag me off my computer, out the door, and have me trimming the overgrown hydrangeas in no time. She was absolutely correct in her assertion that I spent too much time in front of my computer.
“Your grape vine needs pruning. Let’s go!”
“Would you like to borrow my wheelbarrow so you can get those side weeds sorted?”
Insistent, but friendly. And it wasn’t always about the gardening.
One day she decided that I should make ginger and fig jam. This was because our other next door neighbour had a fig tree that hung over our yard. Out we went, and I started to pull out the ladder to get the figs down.
“What are you doing? You aren’t going up there!” she nearly screetched. “You’re way too big. You’ll break the tree!!” And off she went, climbing the tree like a monkey. I had two thoughts. First, holy carp, an 80 year old woman was climbing a tree and I was letting her, and second, her son John would likely kill me if he knew!! We made the jam, and it was okay. But I think we both decided we wouldn’t do that again.
Plums, apples, pumpkins and other beautiful produce appeared on my doorstep often. She insisted I bring my children over to see her baby chicks. She borrowed vinegar and mustard, and brought me super tasty tomato relish in return.
She frequently dragged me over to her house to fix her computer (yes, she had one, and was pretty good at it, too!) and then would insist on a cuppa and gossip before I left again.
And sometimes she would appear at my doorstep hoping for a cuppa and gossip. It was on my front deck that she finally told me that she had cancer, that she was really cross about it because she hadn’t finished her Bucket List, and then burst into tears.
She died at the beginning of this year. This neighbourhood isn’t the same without her.
And I miss her terribly.