It's the birthday of the woman who said: "My tendency is to believe that all experience is an enrichment instead of an impoverishment." That's fiction writer Eudora Welty (books by this author), born in Jackson, Mississippi (1909). Her short-story collections include A Curtain of Green (1941) and The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1982); and her novels include Delta Wedding (1946), The Ponder Heart (1954), and The Optimist's Daughter (1972).
Since I read one of Welty's stories over the weekend and never got around to a Short Story Monday post, this is a fortuitous coincidence. I could claim marking her birthday was my intention all along, but in reality it's hard to write a post on Monday and harder still to scheduled them ahead of time.
"A Visit of Charity" tells of a fourteen year old Campfire Girl's experience during a required visit to an old ladies' home.
"I'm a Campfire Girl... I have to pay a visit to some old lady," she told the nurse at the desk..
"Acquainted with any of our residents?" asked the nurse. She lifted one eyebrow and spoke like a man.
"With any old ladies? No - but - that is, any of them will do," Marian stammered.Welty describes Marian and the two old ladies selected for a visit with the acute awareness of character and setting I have come to expect.
There was loose, bulging linoleum on the floor. Marian felt as if she were walking on the waves, but the nurse paid no attention to it. There was a smell in the hall like the interior of a clock. Everything was silent until, behind one of the doors, an old lady of some kind cleared her throat like a sheep bleating.Marian's discomfort is keenly evident and the visit itself is tinged with hints of both sadness and humor.
"How old are you?" Marian breathed. Now she could see the old woman in bed very closely and plainly, and very abruptly, from all sides, as in dreams. She wondered about her - she wondered for a moment as though there was nothing else in the world to wonder about. It was the first time such a thing had happened to Marian.The story reminded me of a nursing home visit during my early years in Girl Scouts. That's me in the middle of the back row.
Years later as a leader, I took our troop to a nearby senior center for Christmas caroling and, at Easter, to drop off handmade placemats and table decorations. Welty's quote in the Writer's Almanac seems particularly relevant to this story. A visit with a senior citizen is usually an enriching experience for both young and old.
"A Visit of Charity" can be read here.