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Meet you at the Well for "An Evening of Song & Spirit(s)" on 11/19

The woman who used to live at number 9


Sometimes I think about the woman who used to live in the condo that now is mine. I bought this condo from the grown children of a woman named Sally, who died at 91. I never knew her, though this is a small town, and I have encountered many people who did know her. "Oh, you bought Sally's place," they say. Usually after that, people say something like "she was quite a character."

I've heard anecdotes about her climbing over fences, playing golf with celebrities, enjoying a scotch before dinner. The house was empty when I moved in, but hidden in corners that her children had missed I found a few of her things. I kept the coffee mug emblazoned with the logo of the Clark Art Institute; I gave the long, wickedly elegant black and white cigarette holder to Goodwill.

I wonder what she would think about the fact that her home is now inhabited by a single mother and a first grader. Did she have kids when she lived here, or did she move here after her kids were grown? I wonder what she would think of the bright red curtains I hung in the living room, or the wine-colored duvet and pillows in the master bedroom once curtained with a print of pink and green.

In the kitchen I've hung photographs I took in Buenos Aires and in Jerusalem: did she like to travel? Had she ever been to either of those places? What would she make of the music that fills these rooms -- sometimes Nava Tehila, sometimes Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, often the theme song to the Pokémon cartoons my son likes to watch? What would she have made of the sukkah I built on the mirpesset?

Sometimes I imagine her keeping company with the people whose furniture I have inherited. My ex-husband's maternal grandmother, for instance: her bedside tables are in my master bedroom now. Or my own maternal grandparents, whose Czech bookcase serves as a dining room sideboard. I imagine them as a friendly chorus of elders watching over me in this new chapter, fondly, from afar.