I found out on Sunday that a former neighbor from my childhood had passed away in August. Mrs. Bernice “Bernie” Erb passed away at the age of 87. She and her husband, Ed, lived across the street from my childhood home in the South. They were the epitome of kind, understanding, giving people. Growing up, my family wasn’t home very much. My parents both worked 14-hour days, 7 days a week running a grocery store. Having neighbors like the Erbs were invaluable. They seemed to understand that when two people are working their hardest to make ends meet, sometimes the trash bin stays out too long and the hedges don’t get trimmed on time.
My family moved out of the neighborhood in 1990, and it was soon afterward that I lost touch with them. I was still in school at the time, so settling in to my new school in the faraway Northeast and making new friends was at the top of my list.
Eight years later (the year after college graduation), my friend Joy and I decided to make the days-long road trip down South to see my sister. We stopped in my old neighborhood on the way to see my childhood home. I got out of the car and knocked on the Erbs’ door. They were surprised but happy to see me and, as always, welcomed me into their home. We went outside and snapped the photo you see with this blog post.
Fast forward to about 5 years ago when Mrs. Erb and I begin exchanging Christmas cards again. I don’t remember why we stopped or how we got started again, but the cards started up again in 2008 with the news that Mr. Erb had passed away that year. They had been married for 61 years when he passed away. (61 years!)
Those annual cards contained an entire year’s worth of news. How she was doing, updates on her family, her plans for the holidays … I would write her back about work, my family, etc. It was great to have that connection to my past and a connection to a place that had shaped me in my formative years.
One year she sent me a CD of her old recordings that a family member had converted from analog to digital for her. She was a singer and had a lovely voice. The CD was called “My Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown” and had songs with her, Mr. Erb, and other family members.
May you rest in peace, Mrs. Erb. I hope you and Mr. Erb are together again, side-by-side and hand-in-hand. Thank you for all you both did for my family. I am forever grateful.