There is an enigmatic, crazy old woman who lives down the road from Marklewood. Jon and I refer to her fondly as the “Swedish Bun Lady,” a name derived from the woman in the music festival scene from the film “The Sound of Music”. True, the character, indeed Austrian and decidedly not Scandinavian, was the amusing over-zealous bower upon being awarded second prize. After Jon initially made the reference, the moniker stuck like day-old spaetzele, as I knew exactly what he meant.
Our neighbor, thus christened “Bunny” for expedience, wears rather meadowy, “old world” daywear with pristine lace-up bootlets and always has her hair in a bun. On some mornings, when she is certainly driven by whimsy, she will have two buns, not unlike those of dear, departed Buffy on TV’s “Family Affair”. Thus, my friends, is the natural, now aged and harried story of her nickname’s roots.
Bunny lives in a rather fascinating Victorian garden house, a large one-story gingerbread, appointed with cupolas, pediments, shutters. The home is slightly hidden from the road by overgrown hedges and a yard spotted with gorgeous and ancient trees. The once visionary planter left a landscape of mimosas, mahagonias, magnolias, and camellias. The yard was an impressionist’s springtime dream of fuzzy and blurred greens and pinks, framed by a low, very sculpted and hand-planed picket fence. Yes, I covet this house in a big way but prefer to keep such yearnings to myself!
For years, we never noticed any human life at her house, wondering if perhaps it was vacant. Occasionally, we would see her bonneted head protruding from behind some shrub, as she pruned and pulled. Or we would catch a glimpse of her sweeping her long porch. Or we’d watch her surveying the overwhelming floral palette, acquired from a century of plantings and cultivation. In the driveway, we have always seen a well-maintained but late 70’s-vintage azure blue Cadillac.
We never saw Bunny at night, nor did we have any proof that she either went out or even existed past dusk’s clocking hour. Jon and I often speculated that she would read by candlelight or sip chamomile tea and gaze out one of the many windows, daydreaming about her life so long ago. Or, perhaps, she just let her hair down and danced around the house: jiving, reeling, and ultimately bowing.
After a decade, Bunny has thus become one of the many illustrious, partially imaginary characters at Marklewood. Sadly a year ago, a “for sale” sign was posted in front of her home. Had the Swedish Bun Lady passed away or been moved to some care facility by non-caring folk?
Within a few days, the seven houses just beyond hers also had such signage. We were crushed: some dastardly developer would surely level the entire acreage and replace everything with non-descript track homes.Jon then went online seeking the asking price of the various properties, most notably that of our Miss Bunny, only to find that all properties were indeed owned by her. Curious. Had she fallen on hard times? Was she relocating to warmer unknown parts? Was she simply selling out?
Six months later, a new sign went up, mentioning that the listing was now for eight houses on as many acres. Jon quickly found that the new asking price was a combined and hefty four million dollars! Egads! (I have always imagined that Bunny uses such an archaic expletive.)
Since then, we have seen Bunny several times, sometimes her Cadillac parked in the other driveways. We assume that she’s either collecting rent or engaged in landlady issues. To this day, none of the houses have sold; the Cadillac is still well-maintained; and there are occasional sightings of Bunny. We now, however, imagine her life quite differently. I readily visualize her at night, sitting by candlelight at her grand and “unset” dining table. She is likely savoring a very nice glass of sherry, puffing confidently on an imported blunt, and counting cash, a lot of green cash in a banking chamber awash with a cloaking pink.
Every now and then, we now notice that her car is gone at night so we imagine she has a suitor or at least a bit of a social life. Of course, she could just chose to drive to the ATM to do her banking, safe from suspecting, hawkish looks. Then, perhaps she dawdles as she returns finally to her “little city block” out here in the country!
That Swedish Bun Lady! I often assume she has had such glaring and colorful misconceptions about us, the crazy catmen of Marklewood. Although I know she would’ve rated us well below herself at the Salzburg Music Festival! Nevertheless, Jon and I would enthusiastically bow in her direction.
(Image: “Monkey Love” by Collette Calascione, 2004.)