blogWriter Sharman Burson Ramsey Blog








A Simply Southern Wedding.





Order through Mercer University Press






Shadow Waltz

by Sharman B. Ramsey

Attracted by the flashing lights and sirens of the emergency vehicles, the neighbors hugged their coats about them as they milled among the tree height camellias, overgrown and untended, now brilliant with blooms, the old woman's joy.  In hushed and somber tones they reminisced about the crystal bowls of camellias and how beautiful were her floating Pink Perfections.  They remarked upon the size of her camellia blossoms, particularly  the bread dish sized dark red blotched white blossoms she identified as Ville de Nantes that she wore pinned to her blouses and carried to neighbors.  One remembered  the dainty flower stuck in the acrylic treble clef vase, a gift from one of her piano students that always graced the baby grand piano that dominated her living room. .

"Anna came to check on her this morning and couldn't get anyone to the door," one whispered to a new arrival.

"I thought that niece of hers that moved here from Atlanta was staying with her."

"Lord, no.  She ran her off long time ago.  Way the niece told it, Miss Lil threatened her with a gun and told her to get the hell out."

"Miss Lil told Vonceil they were trying to poison her.  She was going crazy with that lazy son of her niece's , a grown man! sitting in front of the TV all day long, getting fatter and fatter.  About to Twinkie away, she put it."

"You don't believe they tried to poison her, do you?  Her niece is about the sweetest person I ever met.  Gave up everything to come down here and take care of Miss Lil.  Miss Lil was over ninety, you know.  Remember the party the UDC threw for her?"

The other nodded.  "I heard they found her buck naked on the living room sofa with only her tatted tablecloth around her shoulders.  What in the world could she have been thinking of?"

They shook their heads at the indignity of her death.  As if being as old as she was she should have been sitting around in her Go to Meeting clothes with a camellia pinned to her lapel., waiting for her imminent departure.  Secure in good health at middle age, they shivered thinking of the cruel tricks Death played on old ladies.  This was only one step above being found dead on the toilet like they'd found a neighbor a few years back.

At last it was dusk.  Time for bed.  For a long time Lil had considered daytime the dream and dark the reality.  She ran the water for her bath, eager to get on with nightly functions so she could lay her head on the pillow and wait for the shadows.  She folded her clothes and placed them on the rocking chair in her bedroom.  Then she pulled the long nightgown from the dresser drawer.  The bath was full and steaming when she stepped in.  She had just lathered her rag when a sound from the living room arrested her attention. 

Debussey.  They were early tonight.  She hadn't had time to finish her bath and get into bed.  They had never come with the lights on before.  She grabbed the faucets and pulled herself from the water.  Her head spun with her sudden rise and she leaned against the cold pink tile for a moment to regain her equilibrium.  The spells of weakness came more frequently lately along with the intense pains in her stomach.  It was the first piece she had ever played on tour for Chatauqua.  Only, she could not remember ever having played it so well.  That was the night she had met Tommy and Suzanne.  Twenty years old and she had never known she had a sister and brother until they knocked on the door of her dressing room in Atlanta that night--seventy years ago. 

A sister and a brother after all of those lonely years with her Grandmother. 

Suzanne, red-headed and high-spirited, acted in a cabaret.  Tommy played the clarinet with a travelling band.  They'd had each other all those years, but never forgot the baby their daddy took when he left.  Lil had always wondered why her daddy had taken her after the divorce just to abandon her to a Grandmother who had little use for another child to raise. 

The clarinet called to her.  Lil shook the water from her like one of her many cats and hurried into the darkness of the other room, afraid she would miss them.

They were gathered around the piano in the living room, shadows in the darkness, but more real than anything she saw in the daylight.  The silver fringed chemise sparkled as Suzanne laughed and shimmied, swinging the long beads.  Lil swayed in the doorway.

The odor of tobacco from the bedroom caught her attention.  He's been smoking again.  He knew how she felt about that nasty habit.  Even though she made him go outside the smoke lingered on all of his clothing.  She smiled and hurried to him. 

He held Amanda, a look of worry on his face.  Their beautiful eight year old coughed raspily and extended her arms for her mother to take her.  Diphtheria, the doctors said.  Lil reached for her...and they disappeared. 

Why had she been left?

All who remained was Suzanne's daughter with her sister's red hair, but none of her spirit.  The niece she'd love so dearly as a child and young woman had now turned into an old woman with buzzard eyes waiting for the pickings.  But since lil's social security covered only the lights and water and her pride prevented her from letting the neighbors in on her situation, she even welcomed the too-spicy meals her niece brought her.  If only she wouldn't look at her so intensely as if calculating hos many more days she might hang on.

The heater on a timer had turned itself off.  Lil felt the chill on her still damp body and tossed the tatted tablecloth from her workbasket about her shoulders like The Lady of Spain.  The baby grand still leamed with the reflection of the silver moon...but the shadows were gone.

Lil sat down on the plump horsehair sofa where years of piano students had awaited their turn.  Her shoulders slumped and her hands shook in the frigid emptiness.  She searched through the darkness for the shadows that were life to her and dreaded the return of the deadly dawn when she would be lone again.

From the darkness Amanda appeared.  "Mommy," she said and smiled.  Lil opened the tatted tablecloth to welcome Amanda's little girl body against her parched breast.  At last.  With a sigh she lay back against the arm of the sofa, her precious child at last again clasped against her.  A smell of tobacco filled the air and Lil smiled and closed her eyes.

The moonlight shimmered shere shadows now waltzed.

The car slowed; yet did not turn.  The woman drove on and turned down another street.  She took a styrofoam container from the seat beside her and tossed it onto n open trash can before returning to the house where Aunt Lil lived.  The camellias blocked the view of the house.  She'd have them cut down when she moved back in.

She recognized the music. 



Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster