It’s time to stroll down memory lane again.

My parents felt it was important to look out for each other, family members and neighbors. I remember my mom always called her mom every day and her brothers James and Maurice would stop by to check up on us periodically. Aunt Anna and Aunt Winnie always stayed in close contact with us.

My sister Patsy and I would be sent out to buy groceries for a few shut in neighbors and one in particular, Mrs. Stein, scared us both because she always looked a little scary.

We would go to the side door of her house and knock on the rickety old screen until Mrs. Stein would finally open the inside wooden door which was painted a dark color even the glass panels at the top. She always wore two or three moth-eaten sweaters and a wrap around her neck that looked like a dead raccoon to us. She would then give me or maybe Patsy a piece of paper torn off the bottom of a magazine with a small list of what she needed from the grocery store. She had an old battered change purse she’d open up to take money out of and I remember looking at her crooked and gnarled fingers with dark brown looking finger nails. As soon as we had the change we’d run through her backyard down the alley to the grocery store, buy all that was on the list and run back and make our delivery.

Patsy and I did talk a lot to each other about what we thought we saw or what we thought about Mrs. Stein and we did voice our fears about her to our mother.

One day she had heard enough and marched us both across the street and up the front porch to visit Mrs Stein. I remember that when she invited us in it was very dark and once again scary. As we sat in her parlor we noticed it was dark because all the shades were pulled so no daylight came in. My mother brought Mrs. Stein some canned goods she had put up for the winter—peaches, tomatoes and pears. I do remember Mrs. Stein had the softest voice I had ever heard and the most beautiful smile. We learned that Mrs. Stein couldn’t handle too much sun light because it hurt her eyes and that accounted for the painted windows on the side door and the closed blinds. We also learned that she wore a couple of sweaters because she always felt cold and she would grab a couple to put on while she stood in the doorway. We learned that her finger nails looked brown from working in her little garden. I didn’t even know she had a garden maybe I ran right by it and never noticed it. As to the wrap around her neck, we never did find out what that really was, it could have been a figment of our imaginations. Anyway that visit changed our view of Mrs. Stein and we noticed it even changed how she was towards us. The very next time we went over to run her errands she gave us a nickel to spend on ourselves and back in that day you considered yourself rich with that kind of money. Well I’m pretty sure Patsy and I bought lots of penny candy and of course bubble gum.

The moral to this story from my take is, Mrs. Stein was the sweetest little old lady with a heart of gold and she probably sensed that we didn’t really like her until my mom intervened and put everything in it’s proper place.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and do not judge people by the way you think they look. Everything is beautiful in its own way and so are people. Be kind, help out wherever you can.

—Helen Valcaniant,
Imlay City