Mrs. Daugherty
Living in the moment

I drove by her house ten miles east of Trenton, North Carolina, every month on my way to the coast. She grew yellow flowers outside the front porch in a little square garden next to a swept yard. Chickens pecked for bugs under the house.

Mrs. Daugherty was sitting on her porch snapping string beans when I stopped to introduce myself. She was comfortable living alone, she said. “I’ve made do without electricity for 38 years, and without a car. I got along plain.” Her son lived in Florida.

I noticed that she restored her clothes. Her dress was darned together like the boards in her chicken house.

That was 30 years ago. Now my memories are of yellow flowers along a roadside, growing dark.

That morning, Mrs. Daugherty gave me a Mason jar of tomatoes she had recently “put up.” Then I left her to be on time for a contractor’s meeting. To me, time was money to be exchanged for clothes and cars. For her, time was life.

Driving home to Raleigh that night, I saw an oil lamp in her window, shining in the dark.