Here is the next excerpt from Beatrice Allen Page’s (my grandmother) unpublished manuscript, Landscape With Figures:
“Mr. Hollis has finished up the outside work and has been working inside this afternoon. Although he takes a professional pride in his craft, he’s very nice about doing minor odd jobs for me such as replacing a washer, fastening down the kitchen linoleum where it had come loose in one corner, putting up a new towel rack – all with the gallant air of helping a damsel in distress. He even offered to teach me how to use the old coal range, telling me that even if I didn’t want to cook on it, it would take the edge off the chill and dampness in the house in bad weather. He is clearly a little scornful of my dependence on a two-burner electric stove and a microwave.
When it comes to the less obvious jobs, he likes to explain to me exactly what he’s going to do, is doing, or has done, although I’ve told him I don’t understand such things and will leave everything to his judgment. At one point he mentioned that some day I might want him to ‘put a rabbit behind the casing’ of my bedroom door. I realized he couldn’t have meant what he said, or rather what it sounded like to me. On surreptitiously consulting the dictionary I found he was talking about a ‘rabbet.’ However, that doesn’t really clarify the situation for me.
He inspired me, too, to get busy on practical things. I cleaned closets and did several other chores I’d been putting off. Whenever we were working within conversational range of each other, it was very companionable. There is nothing of the so-called New England reserve about Mr. Hollis. He takes pleasure in telling me about his life. He asks no questions about mine, however, which I interpret as innate tact rather than lack on interest. Mostly he talks about his soon and daughter-in-law and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, none of whom live around here anymore. He visits each family for two weeks once a year and these visits are clearly the high points of his existence.
While he was working on a window that wouldn’t open and close properly and I was lining bureau drawers with fresh paper, he talked about his wife who’s been dead a long while and whom he obviously loved. He told me when and how and where they met and fell in love, and about their eloping because their parents thought they were too young to marry. He told me how no other woman could keep house the way she could and make it seem like play, and how she was always full of fun and laughter. His sharing these memories with me gave me a warm, good feeling as if I’d just been welcomed into a house where love abounded and spilled over onto friends and strangers.
He left a little earlier than usual today because he ‘needed some nipples to fit the elbows’ – or perhaps it was the other way round – and he had to go over to town to get them. I think it had something to do with putting up a rod in a closet but I’m not sure. In any case, it evoked some strange images in my mind which were presumably not in his.”