I was only 6 when an American couple moved next door. Mr and Mrs Mac were as easy as their Southern drawl and their generosity and warmth were also.
I called him The Man With The Invisible Stetson. She, though, was slight and small.
They drew us in quick until one night dressed in fawns and beige, they took us to dinner at The Belvedere to say ‘thank you.’
I was gauche and said “YUM” but they remained calm, even when I slid between the bars in their balcony, looking into their home.
She found me of course and invited me in using a delicacy as light as her words.
I saw things inside; huge wooden cabinets inlaid with glistening walnut and dusky rose, silently closed.
Seats in gilt and leather beside curtains that brushed the floor. I held my breath as I walked around, listening to the lilt in her voice and taking in the new.
I polished a dining room table so vast I stood on a chair to reach to the middle. The soft ‘swoosh swoosh’ of the duster went in circles until the reflection from the nearby windows was sharp and deep.
“You are better than my cleaner,” she said.
Later that day she taught me how to make popcorn the American way and afterwards we walked into Mac’s room.
I stood in the doorway as she padded to a low drawer, it opened with a creak.
She asked me to “come over and look.”
Inside was tissue paper folded in layers. Slight fingers pulled one side open, then another and she paused before raising a long white glove.
Running up the side were buttons the size of my fingernails. It was of a color so pale, it could hardly be seen amongst the others.
She held it in her hands and let me touch; it was cool and soft.
She opened it up and slipped it onto her thin, long hand until she’d smoothed up to her elbow.
She held her arm out as I watched her move. The glove was pure and perfect but it looked still on her arm, like a thing with no life, no breath at all.
She told me she was a collector and pointed inside.
I stepped in. The drawer was full of 100 leather fingers all wrapped in their own white sheets.
“They are from The South,” she said, “long, long ago.”
“I’ve had some of these since I was a child.”
“My mother had them and my grandmother. They go as far back as we do, Mac and I.”
Her eyes flicked into mine, telling me something I was too young to understand.
“They are beautiful,” I said.
The silence between us was as soft, as soft as the carpet.
“You like these things, don’t you,” she said to me.
“Yes, yes I do.”
“We’ll do a deal,” she said, stepping back as she closed the drawer.
“If you polish my table every week, I’ll tell you what I know.”
© Carrie Henderson 2016