Character Sketch: The Woman Next Door

Character Sketch: The Woman Next Door
Image provided by UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences

I had told you, my readers, I would be doing some character sketches in my quest to improve my writing skills. It was back in November when I had decided on this. Yet, so far, I’ve only wrote one.


Below is #2.


When Lydia Schuhart and her family moved in next door, the impression she gave to the neighbors who lived on the block was undistinguished and considerably dull. In contract, her husband and two daughters were spirited and gave the appearance of usually being cheerful.

She was a housewife and a mother; and didn’t work outside the home. Her entire attention was on her family. My mother was the same, although did activities with the church and had several friends in the area who she’d get together with periodically. Lydia’s wholly existence didn’t go beyond the yard of the Schuharts’ property. My mother invited her to our house a few of times for coffee, but she always had a justification for declining the offer. Soon my mother gave up on that particular idea.

It took one and a half years for Lydia to say more than hello in response to my mother’s greetings, but once it had happened, I began to see her talking to my mother a couple of times each week, each leaning against the fence that separated the Schuharts’ yard from ours. It was during these chats, while I played jacks on the driveway, I got to know who Lydia Schuhart was by simple eavesdropping.

My first discovery was her hair wasn’t the dull dark brown it appeared to be from a distance. At a closer examination, it was clear that it was the color of baking chocolate, rich, thick, and lustrous. Her eyes were a lighter brown with flakes of gold in them. It was then that I realized that I had been afraid of this woman and the reason wasn’t credible. I had misjudged her according to appearance that wasn’t even accurate.

Listening while I went through the threezies and fourzies of my game, I found out that she was from what she called Christmas tree country. I later learned that it’s an area in the northern central part of Michigan where the pine tree farms were. Instantly I had questions about Christmas trees I wanted to ask her, although the inquiries didn’t come easy until later the next year. I also realized why she had insisted her husband plant a Blue Spruce in their front yard. Being four states away, living on the high plains of eastern Colorado, she was bound to be lonely for the landscape she had while she was a child. My parents ended up putting a Blue Spruce in their front yard too. Did this come about because of Lydia?

After discovering Lydia was just a typical mother like my own, I got curious about the inside of her house. I played with her daughters sometimes but it was always something like riding our bikes or going to the school grounds to play on the playground equipment. I finally asked Karen, the younger of the two, if I could go in with her while she got her tennis shoes on. Walking in through the back door, a  pungent whiff of cinnamon hit my nostrils. Lydia stood at the stove slowly stirring the mixture in the large pot sitting on the first burner. She opened a small packet of cinnamon candies and dropped the beads in and continued to stir.

Then she asked, “Do you want a taste?”

The first thought I had was the question, Will it taste good or will I gag?, but all I did was nod. She took a small spoon and dipped it into the pot. Before handing it to me, she blew on it a few times so my mouth wouldn’t get burnt. I took the spoon from her and looked at the concoction. I know what this is — I think. I put the spoon in my mouth and closed my lips over it. Yes, that’s what it was, apple sauce. I never had homemade apple sauce before. The jarred kind was good, but this was stupendous.

Although Lydia was more than willing to answer my questions about Christmas trees, and I was feeling welcomed in her home, there was still some mystery about her that caused me the ponder when my mother and her would have one of their chats. Why doesn’t she come over to visit us. Why are my mother’s and her conversations held with a fence between them? I finally couldn’t stand the not knowing anymore so I asked my mother. She told me Lydia was having difficulties getting used to living where there were hardly any trees. As things were, she only felt half comfortable at her own home and cherished her privacy. I didn’t press for anymore of an answer, guessing I probably wouldn’t understand anyway.

It was only a few years later when the Schuharts moved out and went back to Michigan. I guess she missed the trees too much.


“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” Teresa Calcutta


4 thoughts on “Character Sketch: The Woman Next Door

    1. Yes, I think I knew her fairly well. Being from the eastern plains of Colorado and now living in a state overrun with trees, I’m getting the homesick feeling for the wide open range, just the opposite of what this woman was missing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course, Lydia Schuhart isn’t the real name of the woman I knew, but anyway, somehow she made a long lasting impression on me. Although my mother was/is a good cook, she never got into the canning of fruits and vegetables like this woman did. In fact, none of the other mothers in the neighborhood did things like that.

      Now that you’ve mentioned it, Sharon, I believe you’re right. Lydia would be a good character for a short story, maybe more.


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