Sophie was alone a lot. And so was I. I was 19 when we first moved there. If I was having a bad day or just needed an ear, I would knock on her door with some made-up question, and she always seemed to know that I needed someone to talk to. She would invite me in for a cup of tea, and we would sit and talk for hours. She was so wise, and I loved spending time with her.
Their apartment was full of odds and ends of furniture. Sophie refinished many of the chairs and tables herself. But what I remember most was her needlepoint. She had pillows everywhere and had recovered chairs and sofas with her needlepoint.
Her apartment was so cool. It was the main living area when the house had been lived in by a single family. It had huge rooms, 11' foot ceilings, massive windows and a marble fireplace. It was what I envisioned apartments in New York City must look like. Sophie had such style.
Fast forward 30 years. Last week someone who also knew Harry and Sophie back then mentioned her name. He had seen it on his cousin Judy's schedule. Judy is a hairdresser and colors Sophie's hair. What are the odds?
I've thought about Sophie over the years and took this as a sign I needed to call her. I found her telephone number and called. "Sophie?" "Yes" "This is Sandy from Prospect Street." "Who?" "Sandy from the third floor on Prospect Street." "Sandy?! I can't believe it!"
Sophie is 95 years old.
Yesterday we had our first visit in nearly 30 years. We spent the afternoon sitting on her sofa surrounded by so many of the pillows I remember. Although there are many, many more now. The sofa is a different one but there were chairs, pictures, paintings, drawings and a piano that I remember. And Sophie still has the style, wit and sense of humor I remember 36 years ago when we first met.
She wears hearing aids and can't do her needlework any longer because of arthritic hands. She's a little frail in body but her spirit and mind are just as strong as ever. We had a wonderful visit. She couldn't believe the things I remembered about our days as neighbors, and I couldn't believe how little she had changed. We laughed and reminisced about Prospect Street. And we shared sad stories and a few tears.
The afternoon flew by, and I didn't want to leave. When I finally had to go, we promised each other that we would visit again soon. As we stood at the door and hugged she looked into my face and was still saying "I can't believe it, I can't believe you called." And I said "Sophie, once you're in my heart, you're always in my heart." I'm so glad I called her and can't wait to see her again. Maybe I'll just knock on her door with some made-up question.