• An Odd Couple

    by Jane Roland

    Long before anyone heard of the odd couple there were two gentlemen from Massachusetts.   Nicholas Richardson (a cousin of Sir Ralph) hailed from England and was married to my aunt… Percival Chittenden, his best friend, was a New Englander through and through.  The former was slight and serious a little grey, the latter round, pink and beaming.  They wore hats, carried canes, and dressed in rumpled tweeds or flannels.   They were my Prince Charmings and I awaited their yearly visit with anticipation…

    I first knew Uncle Nick when we lived on Governor’s Island in the New York Harbor when he and Aunt Harriett came to visit. Perce (Uncle Percy); and his wife were frequent houseguests. When the women died, the gentlemen traveled together. Nicholas had a wry sense of humor, rather naughty for the times, generally involving the digestive track, which made his rather dour countenance erupt with joy.  Uncle Percy was a child’s delight. When they came for an annual visit, I often feigned illness, just to be at home with my adored adopted relatives. When I took to my bed the uncles would hover.  If I had a particularly favorite book, they would toddle off to the bookstore to purchase stacks of Bobbsey Twins or Nancy Drew.  Beaming they would stand over my bed to present their gifts, the Magi of my life.

    jane uncle percyUncle Percy and I took little treks, which often involved food.  We lived downtown, a few blocks from the University of Arizona whose environs displayed many quaint dining spots

    Our favorite was the University drug store where we would feast on our favorite, an ice cream soda; Uncle Percy christened a “choc-van” as we loved a combination of the two flavors.  He would buy me stacks of movie magazines and we would wend our way home.

    The two old men adored our animals, a Wire Haired Terrier, Pat and Scottie, Duke, and an assortment of cats. We often took walks; the dog leashes on one arm, the canes swinging from another, a little girl skipping behind… Unfortunately Pat enjoyed running and unexpectedly he would bolt and head down the street with one of the old men in hot pursuit.

    When they were back home I would receive communications weekly, from Uncle Nick, typed rather terse notes talking about his performances in the chamber music society for which he played the violin.  Percy would send postcards, hand written and embellished with quaint little pictures.  He would talk of squirrels he saw or other fanciful tales.  He died when I was thirteen, a tragic day. Uncle Nicholas lived for many years more and I received gifts from him purchased by a buyer from Jordan Marsh.   In retrospect I realize they were equal in affection for the lonely child, just different in their ability to demonstrate.

    Many years later, I was thirty-six and going through a painful divorce.  One of my best friends was into fortune telling and psychic phenomenon.  She convinced me to join her at a performance by a mind reader.  It was a large audience and we had no opportunity (and I no desire) to speak to the woman.    She asked each member to think of someone dear to their heart…   I sat there and, suddenly, I thought of my friend from the past (where it came from I have no idea).  The lights dimmed, it was very quiet…suddenly Psychic Dora started calling out names and said there is someone in the middle of the tenth row “Percy has sent you a message.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on October 17, 2013

    Topics: Animal Tales and Other Random Thoughts


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