Mrs. Cherr's gray hair is clipped close to her head. (1)Her skin is spotty and leathery and hangs a little loose from the bones at her elbows and wrists. But besides those vague, (2)superficial signs you can't really tell how old she is. In my neighborhood, Mrs. Cherry is famous for her energy and her cleverness and her friendliness and her wisdom-and she is also something of (3)a mysterious girl. No one with whom I have spoken remembers a time when she wasn't around, but no one with whom I have spoken can tell me the year when she was born.
At her birthday parties-I've attended a dozen or so, since I moved in next door-Mrs. Cherry covers her enormous cake with as many candles as (4)he possibly can. She almost always makes carrot cake, which is (5)resilient and holds its square shape even around the edges, where the little wax columns might crumble a weaker or a drier cake. One year I counted a hundred candles crowded onto its white-iced surface. I know she does it for the laughs-everyone in her little living room always laughs when she brings the cake in from the kitchen with all the candles lit, the whole business looking like one great baking sheet of fire-but I stop sometimes to wonder. Maybe, just maybe more than a hundred would be (6)accurate.
I have a few small clues as to how (7)lengthily Mrs. Cherry's been around. She remembers certain things that would suggest she's lived through two world wars. And when I first met Mrs. Cherry, I did ask her how old she was. We were (8)sat down on her porch. She was telling me about the neighborhood, and how much she'd enjoyed seeing (9)our little corner of this great big city change over the years. When I asked her, "How old are you?" she leaned back in her rocking chair and told me she was as old as the sun, and as young, too.
"People have been feeling the sunshine forever," she said, (10)and smiling. "But every day it comes back again new."