117. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Madeline Pelerin has lunch with Babcock Robbins
As we saw in Spotlight 73, Babcock Robbins and his wife Rhonda Celine had a novel way of meeting new people:
they acted as if their dining room was like a very special restaurant that accommodated one or two guests at a time, and admission was by invitation only.
Saturday morning was when the couple caught up on their reading, and what caught their eye was a feature article in the Friday Crepuscular Meadows Evening Sentinel about the beautification project that was the brainchild of Madeline Pelerin, a frail elderly woman who had spent months recuperating from Covid-19, but was back home now, and planning to leave three million dollars for the greater good of the town.
"She sounds like a marvelous woman, don't you think?" Rhonda Celine said after her husband had read the article.
"This is someone we absolutely have to meet."
Babcock had to agree with this, but he cautioned that the lady was still weak from her bout with the disease, and they might find that she would need help getting there, and perhaps a special diet that wouldn't tax her digestive system.
"My grandmother's special chicken soup recipe should do the trick," Rhonda said with a wink.
She placed a call to the Home for the Aged and asked if someone would speak to the lady about coming for lunch some time. To their surprise, their call was put through to Madeline, and she sounded stronger than they expected.
"Lunch at your house? What a lovely idea," Madeline said when they had explained their arrangement. "Is Sunday too soon?"
"Why, no," Rhonda said. "We have no lunch guests lined up. If you don't mind coming on such short notice, we'll be delighted to have you."
"Matteo Chelone, the groundskeeper at Clematis Station will be bringing me. May he stay for lunch as well?"
"Of course he may. Just don't get your hopes up that we'll serve anything fancy. You'll eat whatever we would normally be having."
When the two guests arrived, they were a study in contrasts. Matteo glowed with good health. His chest and arms and legs were well-muscled, and a healthy tan covered the parts that were exposed to the elements. Madeline was rather pale, though her spirit was quite strong, and there was a twinkle in her eye.
"I've made my grandmother's recipe for chicken soup," Rhonda explained, bringing out a large soup tureen with large chunks of chicken in a broth with potatoes, carrots, celery, and peas. Their guests inhaled the aroma of the soup, and tucked into their meal with great enjoyment.
For dessert, there was an apple pie that Madeline had brought. "Mrs. Mumble made it with apples from the pick-apples-yourself day on Friday at the orchard in Nobility. Mrs. Mumble made the pie -- she sent Freckles to fetch the apples for her."
"To much information," Rhonda said. "It looks delicious. I will thank Mrs. Mumble the next time I see her."
Over pie and coffee, Babcock and Rhonda asked Madeline about the beautification program.
"The real meat of the program was provided by this gentleman," Madeline nudged Matteo in the ribs.
"But a huge contribution was also made by Gaia Philpin," Matteo said.
"Can something be done to make Hoohaw Street and the bridge over the river look less drab?" Rhonda asked.
"At this time of year, we could consider putting Jack'o'lanterns or wicker baskets of Indian corn and gourds at intervals," Matteo said. "And about a dozen wreaths hanging from the guardrails at Christmas. But the committee is still getting established, and they may not really be ready before Spring, when they'll be focusing on plants."
"I will personally arrange to buy and distribute the baskets you suggest," Madeline said. "I understand that there is a very talented arts and crafts teacher at Clematis Station who could teach a course in making wicker baskets. And not far from here there's the Conti greenhouse. Hopefully he has Indian corn and gourds, or can get them for us. The Mayor has promised to support anything I want to do. He is very enthusiastic about this."
"And I'm sure the arts and crafts teacher can teach a class in making wreaths in December," Matteo said, a sparkle in his eye.
"But please also be thinking about who in your neighborhood would be good at coordinating," Madeline urged. Those houses that are tucked away up on the hill are often forgotten, except for the people with the puppet theater. How can we brighten up this somewhat neglected part of town?"
"Neglected!" Rhonda exclaimed. "There's a house with a zillion cuckoo clocks in it. When the cuckoos all go off at once, you can hear them all over town."
"That's an exaggeration, but you see the point," Babcock said. "And people hurry down the street so they won't miss the latest puppet show. Plenty going on here. Oh, and Steve McKay has come out of his shell a bit. He's actually speaking to people now, asking whether the beautification people could help him by planting evergreens around his house to give him privacy. Developers want to build eight new houses all around him. Can you imagine Steve McKay acting like a normal person?"
"Yes, I can," Madeline said. "I remember him as a boy. He was shy and very hurt that people made fun of him. He just wanted to hide from the abuse. I liked him, and tried to smooth things over for him, but he was just up against too much, and we eventually lost touch with each other."