Elma was married to Walter, and they had only one son, John. I always wondered how, though. I couldn't even imagine them stealing mad passionate looks at each other under any circumstances. Love and babies were supposed to go together, but I think Elma and Walter must have given up on both on the first try.
Elma and Walter's house was prefabricated to their personalities. I think the house might have been a duplex, because I remember two doors with a stone arch over each entry. We would always enter the right side; the left remained closed. Inside the door, stairs led up, but to what, I don't know. Twin beds, probably. When we came to visit, we were only allowed to sit in the shadowy living room with Mom and Daddy. We never saw the rest of the house. This room and the hallway to the bathroom had walls lined in books. Rows upon rows of books. I remember the overstuffed reading chairs - one for Walter, and one for Elma. Each chair had its own reading lamp, and each had its own stack of books. This was my first connection that adults must read things beside newspapers. Before, I thought books were just for kids. At home, Mom would read my books to me sometimes. I never saw her read her own books.
Elma was made for frowning. Her straight gray hair hung in a clean, but shaggy bob that framed her face. Her tiny eyes and lips were chiseled in a permanent pissed-off expression. Her shoulders and back scrunched into a tightness that was usually covered in an ivory classic cashmere cardigan with no less than twenty pearl buttons. Her woolen dresses and fine leather shoes were classic, too. As a matter of fact, what Katherine Hepburn did for the classic look, Elma Chalk counter-attacked. I think that the worst part of the whole ensemble must have been the seamed nylons. Emerging as a budding pre-teen of the pantyhose generation, I just couldn't relate to this straight-seamed, hunched-back, pursed-lipped woman.
But whenever I feel my shoulders drawing in, just the tiniest bit, or the corners of my mouth tightening, all I have to do is remember Elma, and then I smile.