I craved the sanctuary of a rural neighborhood, sans rock & roll stars, crack heads, and major assholes, when I moved next door to a Hungarian immigrant named Betty and her husband Glenn. Betty just may have saved my life with her realism, joy, and humor.
“Betty, five feet tall with a poodle-curl easy-care hairdo, scurried from overflowing planter to fragrant fledgling tomato starts, dragging 200 feet of water-weighted garden hose. Middle-ageless in her button-down flowered blouse, comfortable pastel pants, and garden gloves, Betty sported a headscarf knotted European-field-worker-style under her chin to protect her ears from the wind. From my side of the property line, overgrown with laurel, blackberry vines, and falling fence-work, I could hear Betty working in her giant visqueen greenhouse, chattering away to her vegetables and flowers. Tisza, Betty’s drooling black lab, named for a river in Hungary, heralded the arrival of any possible customers to “Betty’s Garden,” a cottage industry which kept Betty running and complaining. The Lay-dies, a gaggle of overfed chickens, were busy clearing Betty’s Garden of slugs. Several domesticated ducks, along with a few wild squatters, wallowed in a muddy bathtub inside their safe domicile. Betty chanted to the ducks in sing-song Hungarian, “Lily-Ka, Lily-Ka, Lily-Ka.” Bland store-bought eggs never quite made the breakfast grade once you fried up a few of The Ladies’ delicious organics, “fr-resh from the chee-kins’ butt,” as Betty so delightfully illustrated.” (From "Betty" by Jane E. Herrold 2009.)