I’m turning into a coot way ahead of schedule.
First I had to look up that word to be sure it’s still the one I used to know and hasn’t turned into something dirty in the past little while. Nope. I’m safe. A coot, according to Merriam-Webster, is still a “harmless, simple person.”
Back where I came up, in the Deep South, coots were a bit more complex than that. I’m not sure they were all so simple, but they probably enjoyed being thought of that way, since it gave them greater freedom to observe the rest of us, without anyone giving a whit for their opinions.
It was a group of coots who gathered at the cafe in the morning, some of them with no place else to be and some who chose that perch because being a coot had become a full-time job and that was their workplace.
I’d call what they did gossip, except that most of them were men, and men don’t refer to themselves as gossips. They might say they’re visiting. Or getting together. Or stopping by. Or talking. But never gossip.
It was the old coots around home who often came up with the greatest wisdom and when they upped and said something smart, everyone acted surprised. I don’t know why. Certainly they’d observed more of human nature than most of the rest of us.
My favorite neighborhood visiting buddy these days is a man and I don’t want to call him something he doesn’t want to own, so let’s just say we talk about nothing in particular. Still, when our brief visits are done, I always feel better informed. When he brings up a topic, he compares it to other things he’s witnessed in his lifetime of observing and then he draws conclusions. Opinionated gossip is my favorite kind.
Today I’ll phone him to ask what kind of trees are those on the corner that the trimmers are lopping off? And does he think they’ll survive? He’ll have an informed opinion about the way the tree-trimmers are handling the job.
Recently he asked,
“Did you hear about the two widow ladies next door to each other who passed away one right after the other last week?”
The second lady, he said, had just returned from a memorial service for the first and was still in the clothes she wore to the event when she expired. This week, two families are over there packing up two houses next door to each other, where two ladies who were friends and neighbors for decades both departed within a few days.
We’ll drink coffee for a bit and then my friend will offer some pearl of wisdom about life in general based on these specifics and I’ll go back to my routine still mulling over the significance of those trees and those ladies around the corner.
Ó By Anita Garner 2008