Elmer and Zen Hall lived in a white frame house where Johnny Harrell’s garage now sits. Elmer and Zen, an elderly couple who were my neighbors when I was a young boy, were more like family than neighbors. I came and went through their back door at will. They involved me in their daily life. I loved Elmer and Zen.
Maybe I loved them much because the loved me much. They shared their food, their chores, and their souls. I remember the trust they had in me. For instance, when Elmer made homemade soap, she let me use the sharp butcher knife to carve the soap into bars. Can you imagine giving a small boy a razor-sharp knife? I was careful, didn’t cut off one finger!
Life was pretty good in those days. Treats came my way, praise came my way, life was really good with Elmer and Zen. Then, one day it happened, Elmer and Zen announced that they were moving. It broke my heart. I did not understand why they wanted to leave me. I would not see them every day, they couldn’t teach me about good stuff like soap making, kraut making, and jelly tasting. They moved and my heart was sad.
Several months passed, so many months that the daily sadness was replaced with summer, school, winter, and spring. I still missed Elmer and Zen, but now more like the loss of something once valued. That is until that early spring day when I was riding my bicycle to Capp’s Grocery. I turned off Aspen to enter the side door at the grocery when I spied a familiar vehicle. I could not believe it, could it be? Yep, coming out the side door of Capp’s Grocery were Elmer and Zen! I dropped my bicycle to the ground, ran and hugged them both. Boy, excitement beyond excitement, it was Elmer and Zen, life was suddenly good again. But, it didn’t last long, Elmer and Zen were soon in their car and leaving me again.
Well, I was excited, dashed right home to tell Mom of my encounter. She seemed excited too. That was the last time I ever saw Elmer and Zen. We moved, and I never ran into them again. But, I have never forgotten them, every time I see a bar of soap, I smile because not everyone trusts a small boy with a knife. Elmer and Zen did and that was good enough for me.