What Remains of Gerdie McGuire
Julie SuZaNNe BroKKeN, All Rights Reserved
For Allice who inspired my recent excursion into 'Gerdie's Woods' while in Iowa this summer.
I was curious. Gerdie's house was barely visible from the road, easy to miss. Only the old barn was still obvious amid the wilds that had grown around the property since Gerdie's death, at age 89, in 1986.
Gerdie McGuire had lived down the county road to the east, down the road from where Allice, my best friend since kindergarten, grew up... down the road from where her mom still lives. Our school bus passed by Gerdie's home twice every school day from kindergarten at Lockridge Elementary up through high school in Fairfield, Iowa. I remember being curious about the people who lived there... and that something about the place called to me.
Perhaps I met Gerdie at a community event in Lockridge... at the old town hall. I do not recall. Though the memories of some of the faces in our small farming community remain vivid. As do the long tables full of hot casseroles, jello salads, potato salads, pies, cakes. A hundred paper cups full of red kool-aid. Darlene's maid-rite's ~ loose hamburger, cans of Campbell's condensed chicken gumbo soup cooked up in a few of those huge, rounded, white with a silver lid, now vintage, Westinghouse cookers. Fundraiser donations for the Lion's Club, a sick neighbor, a family who's house burned down ~ including some of those beautiful pies, cakes, and my mom's famous pecan rolls, maybe a fishing pole, a cooler, a quilt ~ stacked on the also-now-vintage heavy wood-seated gymnasium bleachers. But I digress.
I recall meeting Gerdie only a few times, in her kitchen, when, as teenagers, Allice, myself and our circle of girlfriends hopped in Allice's brown Buick four-door sedan to Christmas carol the old folks who lived around our country neighborhood. We filled them with joy, they filled us with homemade fudge and cookies and cocoa. We would call in advance so we wouldn't scare them... so they'd answer the door. The phone calls were equal to placing our orders for treats and sweets. Halloween at Christmastime ~ without the tricks and shenanigans.
Gerdie was "one of those little old round persons". That's how my friend Kathleen describes her mother, Velma... it's a perfect and playful description of Gerdie, too. White hair, an easy laugh, tough, independent, wise. Allice recently reminded me that Gerdie always made peanut butter fudge. The last year we stopped at Gerdie's, we politely accepted the fudge, said we were stuffed from previous homes visited, and we'd eat it later. Gerdie's sight was going bad and she could not see the fur 'frosting' her kitty cat had added to the confections.
I am certain it was Allice who told me that Gerdie hunted and butchered her own deer meat... respectfully, gratefully... as rustic farm folk who didn't have a lot of money did back then. Gerdie and her dearly departed husband, Noel, never had indoor plumbing. Allice recalls that Gerdie did not have electricity until 1973, two years after Noel died. They could not have children. They did, it seems to me, have a beautiful life there surrounded by woods, deer, wild things.
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