On the other corner across from the mean house we lived in, was a little grocery shop. People from Holland owned it, they were very nice to us, the lady had long hair that she braided, then spun into little beehives over her ears. They sold a few things, mostly milk and ice-cream, at least that’s what we got there. The bigger grocery was further up the street, they had cans and jars of things and flour and sugar in bags. Next to the Dutch people, lived an old cranky man, Mr. Hopkins. He had white hair and was bent over a little. His house was full of things, like a museum. On my first visit to his house. he gave me a banana which was nice of him. He hovered over me while I ate it, and when I finished, he said, “Little girl, be careful not touch anything or throw that peel anywhere”, to which I answered, “In my house we throw things in the garbage.” So I was allowed to visit from time to time. He had the fanciest things in town. When the Queen visited Nelson, they borrowed his things, to serve her.
Across the street, his house and the house next to him had very, very long front gardens, so long, that three houses could have sat there. His front was gardens and pathways, full of flowers and rose bush trees. Next door to him, was the Calloway house. They had lots of kids, we played with the younger ones, Derek and Guy. Guy was a roly, poly boy with white-blonde hair and blue eyes who looked like an angel. Derek had teeth that stuck out front a little, and a snotty nose he could never keep up with, if he lived in my house, his nose would have been twisted off by now. Their front had a long, long footpath on the side, and a tennis court, with smooth flat grass, then a little wall, gardens, and then the house a little bit above that. I would get to know that house much better after we moved away.
Behind our house, the house we lived in was Mrs. Turtin. Her front started where the river bent, next to where the eels lived. Her house was closer to the street and full of flowers. The back of her house was full of flowers too, I could see them across the river from our back lawn. Their houses were painted white too, but they were much brighter inside.
Mr. and Mrs. Calloway were important people in town. He was a city councilman. They helped us to become part of the town, to become citizens. I’m sure they helped with the state houses we lived in until we could get our own. I didn’t see them much, they were very busy. Mrs. Marion traveled a lot, she went all over the world.
They were nice neighbors, and we would have tea with them. They liked tea with milk. My family drank theirs with lemon, wine, or rum at home. I liked the little sandwiches with cucumber the best, and the plain little arrowroot biscuits. I would dip them in the tea to make them soft. Sometimes, they got too soft, broke, and fell in, the best game was trying to get them right before they broke, then getting them in your mouth before they fell on the table.
My father grew carrots, potatoes, and other roots in the side garden, but I never saw him grow arrowroots.