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DEAR MRS. JAQUISH


Dear Mrs. Jaquish,

I don’t know if this is the way your name was spelled when I knew you. It’s how it sounded to me anyhow. This is a note to apologize for all the rotten things we rowdy kids did to you so long ago before we knew better. We children were not good neighbors. I’m sure you did not plant your flower garden expressly for us to pick, nor your trees for us to climb.

I would have written an apology right after we left, but I got poison ivy as soon as we began settling into living in Connecticut and after that it was too late and you were gone when we came back home two years later. I still have the nice letter you wrote to me which shames me somehow now as not being particularly worthy of your friendship. It begins “Dear Katie Lou,” which was my childhood name, and gives me the news of the neighborhood. I disliked my name even then, and you will be pleased to know I tried out many new ones along the way before settling on the present one.

PALM I can picture Long Beach even now after all these years; hopping the squares in the sidewalk, the wonderful old palm trees lining the streets which all had squiggly black patches on them. The truck which came around with hot melted tar to paste on the cracks in the pavement lives in my memory because we used to chase it down the block and grab a piece of hardened tar before the man could catch us. We thought it was good for our teeth.

Maybe that’s what Life is though, a series of patching things up. Streets, houses, relationships. Even trying to make amends for shortcomings suffered three-quarters of a century ago.

I don’t know how old you may have been in 1938, but I’m sure I am older now than you were then, and with a love of gardening equal I’m sure to yours.

There weren’t many of us children in our neighborhood. Two or three more girls and a boy or two who lived around the corner where I was not allowed to play. If you will remember, in Grandma’s rooming house where I lived, there were a number of people who kept track of me.

When we returned home in 1940, someone else lived in your old house, and one of the two little sisters, our playmate Jackie Glass, had passed away as well as yourself. She was the youngest one at eight. I have her picture at my 10th birthday party taken right before we moved away. I don’t have a photo of you, but you live in my memory. You were the first truly old person I knew.

Anyway Mrs. Jaquish, if you get this letter somewhere up on your cloud, I have learned that apologies are best given with some immediacy.

Very truly yours,

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11 comments on “DEAR MRS. JAQUISH

  1. So very moving, Kayti. Mrs J already knew in advance you would be writing today xx

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  2. Perhaps that’s the reason she interrupted my bed-making to write her!

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  3. Your transgressions were so minor your conscience need not be troubled.

    A kindly contemplation that Mrs Jaquish was, nevertheless, pleased to receive.

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  4. soooo sweet Aunt Kayti. Love your writing.Hope you are having a lovely summer solstice day. Enjoy, see you soon!

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  5. Happy summer solstice! And happy happy retirement! Enjoy! It’s time for celebration.

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  6. Such a sweet and touching letter. I’ve written a similar one to a certain 7th grade social studies teacher in my head, several times. Our transgressions in his class were of a different order, but children can be cruel, even when they’re not aware of it. Maybe especially when they’re not aware of it.

    One of my mother’s funniest tales was of my dad revealing on about their third date that he was with the boys who stole the watermelons from her dad’s melon patch. Dad had no idea who the melons belonged to — until that moment. I asked Mom if she ever told her father who’d stolen the fruit. She just looked at me and said, “Are you kidding?”

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  7. I laughed out loud at the story of your Dad’s thievery. Yes, children come by it naturally I think. We actually threw dirt clods at poor Mrs. Jaquish’s house. I can’t believe I was a part of it. But on a more serious note: it shows you what mob intellect can do. One of my grandsons, the most well-behaved of the lot, was in a group of boys who painted the windows on a stranger’s car some years ago.

    Children also are afraid of the rebuke of their friends if they don’t participate in mischief. Bullying children are a group to be reckoned with. I was often bulled during my childhood as being “the outsider”. It isn’t a happy place to be.

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