Snow and a Visit to Queens Library in Flushing, New York
We just came back after taking a walk down to Queens Library to experience the snow and meet Bev's friend, Sharon, who works there. Everything looks beautiful covered in snow, even the garbage. A man smiled at Bev and I creeping along at a snails pace - I am terrified of slippery ground, given what happened to me as a teenager in Rhodesia at Mermaids Pool, where I slipped on rock and smashed my front teeth out a few weeks before my final exams ....) I asked him to take our photo, never giving a though to the possibility he may race off with my mobile. He didn't and was absolutely thrilled to hear I am here from Australia, with the word “Australia!” being repeated in disbelief, and a shake of his head. I feel like a celebrity.
Beverly used to decorate the Xmas tree growing outside of their apartment block when the kids were little, (they’ve lived there since they were married!) but its huge now, and she stopped some years ago. The swings and benches and tables where people sit and play chess in summer are all but invisible, cars are weighed down with eight inches of snow, and I wonder how you get in, do you carry a shovel at all times? Everyone knows Bev, and as they walk by, they greet her “Hello Miss Riley!”- and “Miss Riley, you walk careful now! Ain’t no salt down here, OK?”
The library is as hot as Alice Springs, and I have to disrobe a few layers, and carry them. Sharon, Bev’s friend, has been manager here a couple of years and has totally transformed the place, says Bev - it was managed by a Chinese woman who only had Chinese books and resources, but Sharon caters for everybody. “We are the most diverse borough in the world” says Bev “we speak 139 different languages!” Wow. Bev relates in detail the party, the children, the food and the music, the staircase and the speeches, and her delight in me, and her delight in my Mother's malachite necklace, clearly touched. Sharon and her husband got lost on the two hour journey to Chester, and never made it. She is clearly disappointed now at missing a Grand Event. Bev checks out a DVD she has ordered with no assistance from the librarian, it’s all computerised, but she’s clearly at home here, then fills her bag with newspapers for Dickie.
It takes me a while to put all the clothing back on before heading out to the street, and impossibly, its even colder walking home, as the wind 'has got up' says Bev. Puddles of water are frozen solid, cars are inching along, and the TV has advised people to go home early, as more snow is expected tonight. Chicago has had the fifth worst snowstorm in recorded history, with 20 inches in a couple of hours.
I’m happy to get back to Bev’s apartment block, and we meet her neighbour Marilyn as we enter. Her dog is barking and Bev wants me to meet her. The Dog, I think. Bev tells her the Party Story as I am sweating prolifically in the heat of the building. The dog is an overweight, cute little Shitzu, who takes an instant liking to me. “That sure strange!” says her owner. The doggie has to wait for her Daddy to come home and take her out for her 'business'. Marilyn, too, does not look like she gets out much, certainly not in this weather, she reminds me of a character from Seinfeld, and talks like one, she is large, white and elderly, her hair is long and uncombed, and she is BAREFOOT, in tracksuit pants and a large, loose top. She asks Bev to ask Billy if he will write a letter for her to the council, as it will help 'persuade people'. Bev is an activist in many areas, today she was on a conference call, as the senate wishes to pass an act, giving the caregivers of people who leave hospital training in how to medicate, inject or operate nebulisers, etc. She and Dickie get into a heated argument over this, and as I sit in my room listening, it’s impossible not to hear, I realise they both are committed to the same outcome, but seem to enjoy a sparring match.
My day is so different here, I have joined this family's timing and way of living. I woke up at 11.30 am after going to bed after midnight. I had breakfast at 12 and at 2 pm Dickie made sausages and eggs, over which there was a sparring match, and another occurred over the recycling. There is nothing malicious or unkind in these, just two strong willed people attempting to align on topics important to them both.
This is a home in its deepest meaning. Dickie thoughtfully places a plate of chopped fruit on the table for us to graze on, the kettle never gets cold, the phone never stops ringing, with their kids, nieces, nephews, son in law, and friends call for a quick exchange, or a long protracted call, for they both love to talk. Everybody asks after “Miss Sandra”. Dickie says, 'Saaaaandra, we don't rush in this house no more.' And they don't. It's a good pace for a jet lagged girl like me and I love being here.