Everything and Nothing: Looking for Sharon
Posted July 12, 2022
By Aïda Rogers
In the middle of the night in the late 1960s, my baby brother developed a 104-degree fever. I remember this night – my panicked mother lifting and lowering him into the bathtub, we three sisters keeping a scared distance. Mom had been on the phone with Dr. Liverman, who told her to keep him in a bath of ice to bring his temperature down.
That’s all I remember about this night, except for Clifton’s red body, but my mother remembers it well. There was panic about the fever, and then there was panic about the ice. We’d run out.
There was only one solution, and that was for our parents to wake the neighbors across the street. Gladys and George Ramsey had become trusted friends. They could be called in a crisis.
The ice was rushed over and a terrible thing was averted. Our lives could continue in our small-town way, with “Mama Gladys and Papa George” as a sort of safety net. They brought us candy when they came back from trips, and once, early in the morning when we had a small fire, they took care of us, fed us breakfast, until things got back to normal. Gladys didn’t hesitate to scold us when necessary – we didn’t like it when she flew across the street to tell us to quit jumping on the car.
For my siblings and me, the Ramseys were a nice elderly couple, but for my mother, Gladys was so much more. They both liked to sew and would discuss patterns and fabrics. Who knows what else they discussed? Does it matter, as long as they were there for each other – and us?
“Neighbors are more important than family,” my mom says, wagging her head. She’s quoting her own mother.
For the past 11 years, we’ve been similarly blessed. Across our street in Columbia is Sharon. Every morning, after I swallow a pill, I open two slats of the blinds to make sure she’s there. I can tell, somewhat, if things are okay – judging by her car, the lights, and if Fancy, her cat, is looking outside the door. By this time we’ve become more than friends, and I’ve been trying to come up with a word that encapsulates all a trusted neighbor is. They’re in an exalted realm because they are both family and friend.
Like Gladys and Mom, Sharon and I have relied on each other. I’ve taken her to the emergency room; she’s taken me for early morning hand surgery. When we brought our new puppy home, she waited just a bit before asking if “Ginger was receiving,” and then came over with toys and treats. More times than I can count, she’s plied me with her specialty – a refreshing and powerful vodka tonic. We talk about the news, we talk about our problems, we talk about what we’re reading. Once, alone in the house after midnight, I called her when I heard a strange noise. She told me to come stay with her. She didn’t make me feel stupid that it was probably a possum coming in the doggy door.
For years my friend Dolly was torn about selling her house. It had become too much trouble. But she didn’t want to leave her neighbors – not only because she loved them so much but because they were steadfast in good and bad times, and had become second parents to her daughter. I didn’t quite understand her situation back then, but I do now.
Every night, after swallowing more than one pill, I look across for Sharon. So far, so good. I’m knocking on every piece of wood I can find.
Aïda Rogers writes from an old house in Columbia and a new porch in McClellanville. Her three-volume anthology series, State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, includes stories by 108 Palmetto State writers.
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