The telephone woke me from a delightful nap.
“Bee darling.” I knew immediately it was Dora Mae. “Listen, Elsie and I are going through some things and she has several rolls of super eight films. Didn’t you and Willie have one of those cameras?”
I thought for a minute. “You know Dora, I think we did, Willie kept all that stuff in a trunk upstairs. Whatcha need it for?”
“Oh, darling, we don’t need the camera, just the projector.”
“Well, you asked about the camera, I don’t know if that old projector is in the box or not. I’ll have to go up and look, do you want it if I do find it?”
“Why don’t you just bring it over to Elsie’s.”
“Well, what if it isn’t there?”
“Come on over anyway, we will figure something out.”
An hour later I put the old projector (yes, it was in the box, darn it), onto my foldable baggage cart and walked down Middle street to Elsie’s house. Dora Mae Davenport, Elsie Smith, and I formed the Twin Rivers Methodist Widows Union and Coffee Club. So far, we were the only members, not that there were not more Methodist widows in the vicinity.
“So, what’s all the fuss about,” I said, dragging the old projector up the stairs and into Elsie’s front room.
“These.” Elsie proudly held out a stack of super eight movies.
“We are supposed to watch these.” I tried to sound skeptical.
Dora Mae walked into the room carrying a stack of film. “Here Bee, Elsie found a box of these but no projector. Willie was always careful with things, so I figured you still had a projector.”
Dora was right, Willie kept original boxes for everything, and when I found the projector it was still in a faded yellow Kodak box. It even had an extra bulb in the box.
“Set that thing up; Elsie, bring Bee some of that banana bread you made.”
“And some iced tea, if you have some, Elsie.” I really didn’t care for her banana bread, always too dry – and knew I would need something to help me swallow it.
At last we pulled the shades and began movie time. There were two movies of people standing in front of Mt. Rushmore, sort of still pictures on movie film, and then there was a picture of Elsie in front of a motel. She was waving at the camera. Then the third or fourth reel was of some kids setting up a tent. I knew she and John never had any children but I hated to ask.
Finally, Dora spoke up. “Who are the kids Elsie?”
“Oh, John took those of the kids at Don Lee one summer when we were volunteers.”
“I didn’t remember you and John doing that.” Dora stood in front of the projector and the images reflected off of her blouse.
“That’s what we did with our summers,” Elsie said quietly, “since we had the summer off from school, we just went to camp. Camping with hundreds of kids was a lot of fun.”
“Yeah, Camp Don Lee is really cool, all of our kids went there, but I don’t remember seeing you.” I motioned for Dora to move.
“I was cook, and John worked with the sailboats, so unless you looked for us you wouldn’t have found us. Most of the parents did little more than drop off their kids.”
“That’s about right.” I thought back to the days when Willie and I would drop the kids at the camp.
“Wow, Elsie, I have known you a hundred years, and did not know this.” Dora sat down in an overstuffed chair.
“I think Willie and Carl both knew, the Methodist Men were always down there fixing things.” The reel ended and Elsie clicked on the light.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” laughed Dora, “those guys never told us anything.”
I tried to refocus the discussion. “So, that’s where you went every summer, I just figured you and John went on vacation.”
“Church camp was our vacation,” Elsie sat with moist eyes. “Maybe I ought to go out there this year and help again for a week or so.”
“I bet they would love to have you.” The realization of the quiet testimony of our old friend was almost more than I could take. Tears rolled down my face. I looked at Dora, she was dabbing her eyes too.
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