Growing up, our neighbors were an older couple named Mr. & Mrs. Danner. I don’t remember much about Mr. Danner except that he was a very quiet man. I know he was quiet because we didn’t have air conditioning which meant that our windows were open all summer. Sometimes after a few cocktails, Mr. & Mrs. Danner would argue on their screened-in back porch while we three kids pressed our curious faces against the screen of our back room listening to Mrs. Danner yell at Mr. Danner while he mumbled undecipherable responses. On one occasion we were totally busted when Mrs. Danner caught the three of us in our window and screamed at her husband, “The neighbors can hear us, Harold!” which wasn’t entirely accurate because we could only ever really hear her. This didn’t stop us though because we just got better at crouching under the window sill out of view, which served us well when, after Mr. Danner passed, Mrs. Danner’s mother moved in with her. Being incredibly old and very hard of hearing she, much like her late son-in-law, also responded in incomprehensible mutterings when Mrs. Danner was yelling at her. Like the time they were playing a board game on the porch and Mrs. Danner screamed “You can’t play Scrabble with chocolate pieces, MMMOTHER!”
But I mean no disrespect because, the intermittent cacophony of bickering aside, I genuinely enjoyed hanging out with Mrs. Danner and spent a lot of time at her house learning things about baking (and cutting my finger with a big kitchen knife after she specifically told me not to chop the walnuts but I was, like, 5-years-old and thought I had everything figured out) and feeding Milk Bone treats to their awesome black mutt named April. (I loved that dog!) Mrs. Danner was always very kind to me and welcomed me into her home whenever I wandered next door — which was kind of all the time. She was also pretty cool in a hip kind of way because there was a band studio setup in their basement for one of her sons who was in the music industry. She had a big, raspy laugh from years of heavy cigarette smoking, drank a lot of coffee, and because this was the 70’s, her fingers and toes were always painted with a pearly pale pink or coral polish, which looked exactly like the shells we would see during our trips to the beaches of Cape Cod. And we still do see those shells and think of her. And we will forever refer to these shells as Mrs. Danner’s toenails.
**Apparently, these shells are ‘Anomiidae‘ and are also referred to as ‘Jingles’ or ‘Mermaids’ Toenails’ so I guess we’re not so clever with that whole toenail reference after all.