My husband and I recently moved our family to a new neighborhood. We were lucky to find a totally redone townhouse in a really nice complex. Soon after we moved, we realized that we had altered the median age of said complex considerably. In fact, most of our neighbors are elderly women between the ages of 75 and 97. Ooh, another man. Oh a young man. So nice to have a young family. I don’t know that I’d use the word “young” to describe either myself or my husband. But to the cast of Cocoon residing in our subdivision, we might as well be in high school.
These ladies aren’t just any old ladies though. They are active (many are still working), vibrant, and charming. I’m fairly sure that they stay up later than I do. And on occasion, they sit on lawn chairs in the middle of our complex and drink wine and laugh and kevetch. They call this impromptu gathering the “Sippin’ Sisters.”
About a month ago on a sticky summer evening, I am lucky enough to receive an invitation from the Sisters. Joan, a 92 year old with two poodles and crazy swagger, told me about the group the day we moved in. I confess that while I said “Ooh that sounds nice” I hoped I would never hear of this again. But there stands Joan at my door, blouse impeccably ironed, wine glass in hand.
I go to this latest installment of the Sippin’ Sisters. My motivation is completely self-serving. I want to appear like a good neighbor; I want a bunch of ladies to hold my enormous five month old daughter Darcy. Certainly, both goals will be accomplished and I’ll be back in the AC in half hour.
To my surprise, I have the best time chatting with these ladies. Let me take you through the cast of characters. And they are indeed characters.
You’ve met Joan already. She’s Catholic. I am asked right away about my religious preference. Would I be Team Joan or Team Everyone-Else-Is-Protestant? I answer truthfully that I grew up Catholic but we attend Methodist church. This answer satisfies everyone and I am tentatively accepted.
There’s Dotty. “I am the queen,” she announces when I walk up. Dotty is the leader of the group. Armed with a glass of rose and tangerine-colored lipstick, Dotty informs me that she was the first person to live in our complex. She moved in over forty years ago after her husband passed. Dotty snatches up Darcy right away cooing, “Ooh she’s darling.” Dotty also notifies me that despite my native New Yorker status, God has certainly blessed me by giving me a Texan baby. Then she jokes, “What do you call a yankee who has lived in Texas for thirty years?… A yankee who has lived in Texas for thirty years!”
All the ladies laugh.
I laughed too. It’s funny because it’s true.
There’s Helen. Helen declares that she is the “second queen.” But before I could break it to her that there is no such thing, Dotty interrupts again, clearly invigorated by a new person to entertain. “You have the choice unit,” Dotty exclaims. It is evident that everyone in the circle had looked through my home when it first came on the market.
Helen thinks she’s 73 but no, Joan gently reminds her that she is 93. Helen sulks a bit at this revelation but quickly recovers. Clearly, Helen feels like she’s 73 and that’s all that matters. And who wouldn’t feel 73 in perfected quaffed gray curls and white capris?
There’s Joan and her daughter Kathy. Joan is sassy. I’ve already mentioned her swagger. She sashays past my home three times a day with her poodles. Joan and her dogs are my pug’s archenemies. Thatcher hates anyone with more swagger than her. (The pug is also sassy. But this post is getting lengthy so I won’t go into it.) Kathy is less sassy. Despite being one of the younger women in the group, she’s bashful. That’s probably because you can’t get a word in edgewise unless the queen asks you a direct question. Kathy tries to offer some neighborly words, “We are always home. If you need anything—“
“If you need anything, just ask. We don’t have what you need. But we will call someone for you,” Dotty cracks up.
Finally, there’s Naomi. She mostly sits there sipping her pinot giorgio (with ice) and giggling. As I leave she lets me know that she shares a wall with me. I shudder as I think of the worst—she’s going to complain about our parrot. But instead Naomi asks if her television is too loud. She’s just had her hearing aids put in and can’t tell if she’s bothering anyone. “I have a four year old, a baby, a pug, and a parrot. You’re fine,” I laugh and Naomi smiles, genuinely relieved.
There hasn’t been another gathering of the Sippin’ Sisters since then. I assume that people are just taking summer vacations, visiting families, tours of beauty, whatever. The Sippin’ Sisters aren’t ones to be driven indoors by the Texas heat.
Or maybe I just wasn’t cool enough to be invited back.
I hope this is not true.