R. K. Mosser, an Oakwood resident who teaches at the University of Dayton, is the winner of the adult division of the Centennial Short Story Contest co-sponsored by The Oakwood Register and Wright Memorial Public Library. His story “Wisteria” is featured today. The teen winner, Lyndsay Seeny, will have her story printed next week. Contest judges were Dr. David Lee Garrison and Lucy Perez.
Grace firmly gripped the rail, and with a steady focus headed down the stairs. At 89, she moved less quickly but with no less resolve than in the past. After a long and dreary Winter, Spring had finally arrived, bringing with it warm days and dazzling azure skies. The brilliance of the day, with its promise of Flowering Plum, Pink Dogwood, and Sweetbay Magnolia in full glory persuaded Grace to leave the house, something she had become less and less willing to do. But what had really convinced her was the large black and white moving van next door. By the time Grace had gotten to the bottom of the stairs, she realized that standing in front of her was a small girl, dressed neatly in a green and plaid skirt, white blouse, and pigtails, neatly tied up with ribbons of green to match the skirt. She caught Grace by surprise.
“Hello. Did I scare you?,” the little girl asked.
Grace smiled and said “No, no, no; I’m fine. Are you moving in next door?
The little girl nodded. “I’m Phoebe.” She then curtsied, a gesture Grace hadn’t seen for years.
Grace introduced herself, and discovered that Phoebe was five years old, had just moved here from Georgia, and had no brothers or sisters. Phoebe also admitted, a bit ruefully, that she had been a bit scared to move so far to a new town, where she had no friends.
Grace told her that she thought she could be Phoebe’s friend, and asked her if she would like a glass of lemonade, after checking with her parents. Phoebe skipped off to ask permission, and Grace headed back inside, to mix up a batch of lemonade and see if she might be able to find some cookies.
Soon there was a knock on the door; Phoebe had brought her parents with her, and introduced them to Grace. After small talk about Oakwood, the weather, the schools, and the neighborhood, Phoebe’s parents both left, evidently having given Grace their seal of approval. Phoebe sat on the porch, and Grace was laughing as she brought out the tray of lemonade and cookies she had managed to locate.
“Miss Grace, is something funny?”
“I was just laughing at your parents; I don’t think they were nearly as interested in my views on the weather as they were in seeing if I could be trusted. I guess they decided I could be. Just between you and me, Phoebe, I don’t find adults very interesting.”
Phoebe nodded her head vigorously. “Me neither. I usually don’t understand what they’re talking about, and if I do, it’s really boring.”
Grace found Phoebe to be utterly charming, with her north Georgia accent, her very polite but matter of fact way of talking, and her engaging self-confidence. The two spent the rest of the morning talking about things they found considerably more fascinating than what adults discussed: kittens, knock-knock jokes, ice cream, swimming. They discovered that they shared a love of books, and it wasn’t until Phoebe’s mother called her home for lunch that Grace realized how quickly the time had passed. At Grace’s request, Phoebe promised to return the next day.
As good as her word, Phoebe knocked the next morning, and Grace realized she had looked forward to seeing her. After receiving her parents’ permission, the two set off for the Wright Library. While Grace didn’t move as quickly as she once had, she kept up a steady pace, and the two were soon engrossed in the library’s array of adventures, poring over book after book. Phoebe proved to be a good reader, and the hours sped by for them, accompanied by wizards, unicorns, princesses, and the occasional evil Stepmother.
Soon Phoebe and Grace were fast friends, sneaking off to Graeter’s for ice cream, Phoebe demonstrating her clumsy but earnest ballet technique, or simply chatting. Grace taught Phoebe how to play two-handed pinochle, and many an afternoon was spent on the porch, sipping a cold drink and playing cards. As the Summer progressed, Phoebe began to make a few new friends in the neighborhood, but she and Grace regarded as inviolable their schedule of lunch every Tuesday and Friday, always followed by an afternoon of reading at the Library. Grace discovered that Phoebe made her feel not just renewed, but gave her a rekindled optimism she feared she had lost. She no longer sat around her empty house, waiting for her prosperous but busy son to find time for her; rather, she could always count on Phoebe to drop by, for an hour or for the day, to liven things up. It had been a glorious Summer, a Summer of friendship, a Summer of Phoebe, when Grace learned again how to be young.
But as Summer turned to Fall, the sky that came with it brought gray clouds and a damp coolness Grace found disagreeable, and Kindergarten for Phoebe. Grace had made the long walk one morning to see Phoebe climb onto the bus that took her to Lange School, but it so exhausted her that she wasn’t able to come to the door when Phoebe stopped by afterwards. With Phoebe busy with school and the new friends she made there, Grace saw her less frequently, and as the Autumn chill asserted itself, Grace found herself missing her friend. But one special Friday night, Phoebe was allowed to stay up late, and she and Grace, snuggled under an old quilt, popped corn and watched Shirley Temple movies until they both fell asleep.
Not long after, Grace started to grow weaker, and rarely left the house. Her eyesight began to fail, she felt tired most of the day yet couldn’t sleep well at night, and she became much more easily confused than in the past. Her son now visited much more frequently, and had hired an efficient but taciturn live-in nurse to help. But nothing brightened up the day as much as a visit from Phoebe, who came by almost daily to sit with Grace. Phoebe was aware that something had changed, but resolutely continued to read to Grace, to tell her stories from Kindergarten, and to sing her some of the new songs she had been learning there. They rarely talked about the future, but occasionally discussed Phoebe’s new friends. It was during one of those visits that Phoebe admitted “Miss Grace, I have some new friends, but I don’t know if I’ll ever have a best friend like you.” Although she frequently had tears in her eyes when returning home, she found the strength to remain upbeat and cheerful when sitting with Grace.
One early November Saturday, the sky was remarkably clear and bright, the brilliant hues of the Fall foliage dazzling in the sunlight. Earlier the nurse had checked on her, and Grace heard her walk quickly to make a phone call. Grace managed with some effort to rise from her bed, and walked slowly over to the window. Looking out across the sun-dappled sugar maples and sweet gums, she saw Phoebe standing in her yard, dressed as she had been when they first met, the green ribbons in her hair reflecting the sunlight. Grace smiled, and raised her hand in a simple wave; Phoebe flashed her own smile and gave a much more vigorous wave. Grace then saw a large black and white vehicle come to a rapid stop in front of the house. She wasn’t sure, but thought it might be another moving van, just like the one that had brought her Phoebe. With a contented, quiet smile, Grace moved back to the bed. As she closed her eyes and took a last, silent breath, unaware of the ambulance attendants entering her room, she happily imagined a new best friend for Phoebe having arrived.
The natural beauty of our city will be featured in events that focus on the natural areas of our beautiful city. Physical fitness and outdoor recreation will be emphasized in activities for the whole family.
Contiguous to the City’s Houk Stream natural park area, this special 3.1 acre piece of property provides a much-needed space for enjoying the wonderful outdoors and for natural sciences education. Hundreds of volunteer hours have already gone in to initial clean up of the site. We have also just completed installation of a pedestrian bridge spanning Houk Stream, connecting the existing natural area to this new acreage. The bridge is a gift coordinated through the Oakwood Rotary Club and involving several major contributors. The contributors will be recognized at a formal bridge dedication ceremony to be held at 2:30 on Sunday, June 22, in connection with the Hike to Houk event.
Our architectural heritage and beauty will be an emphasis of this celebration to include several exciting events. A film depicting the history of Oakwood will premiere for all citizens to see. Also, the citizens of Oakwood will have an opportunity to tour Hawthorn Hill, free of charge.
The Wright family home, Hawthorn Hill, will be open, free of charge, for tours to all Oakwood residents on July 12, 13, 14 and 19. This is an incredible opportunity and something you will not want to miss.
- 9 am, 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm SOLD OUT
- 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm SOLD OUT
- 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm
Deadline to sign up is June 1, 2008. Please call 298-0600 for reservations. All tours are limited to 15 people.
No one under age 5, please. Your photo I.D. will be your ticket. Walking is encouraged, parking available at the Oakwood Municipal Building.
This event has been made possible by the generosity of the NCR Corporation.
A stirring concert by the Air Force Band of Flight will be the centerpiece of this event. We will build on our traditional Ice Cream Social community celebration with a picnic supper, entertainment and games for the enjoyment of Oakwood citizens of all ages.