Mary lived in a condo apartment on the 8th floor over looking the beach. The first time I entered her apartment, I felt as I had walked back into time. The foyer had parquet floor, and a beautiful crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. At each side of the door was a large pot of gardinias, that gave such a wonderful smell.
As I entered the living room, it was filled with very old antique furniture so pristene , it looked like it had just come from the store. There were marble topped tables with original leather bound books of famous authors. On the walls were old paintings, and framed invitations to historical events dating back to the 1800’s.
In a room to the left I found Mary, She was in an grand old antique bed that had belonged to her grandmother. She was a tiny woman and looked lost in the bed. The room was decorated the same as the living room. With a large, old chest an a large chiffarobe, which held brass and copper vases and decanters. On the wall hung an original portrait of Martha Washington, that once had hung in the halls of Congress. Everything was beautiful, as long as you didn’t look down. On the floor, along all the walls of the bedroom there were piles and piles of mail and old magazines. She said she didn’t like throwing things away. Mary told me how she had just celebrated her 90th birthday, and we spent the next several days getting to know each other.
Everyday I would clean, cook, and take care of Mary. She was so pleasant. She would tell me the stories of her life how she had been a teacher at the friends school for many years, and how her father in law had been a congressman, and they use to live in the original Virginia House until the government took over as part of their military headquarters. She told me with pride about her son and grandsons who had become lawyers.
One day while cleaning the dining room, I accidently dropped an old glass vase and it broke. I was in tears I was so upset. Mary was in the bedroom so after picking up the pieces I went in to tell her. She knew something was wrong when she saw me, so I just came out and told her. I couldn’t apologize enough, when she taught me my first lesson from her. She said things can always be replaced, people can’t. No one has ever said something like that to me before, and I have kept that philosphy with me all these years and have repeated it to my children and grandchildren more times than I can count when they have broken something.
While cleaning her bedroom one day, I was able to convince her that all the magazines and mail everything dated before 1980 (some went back to the 60s ) we would put in the closet in suitcases and if went one year with no need to go in them, we could throw them out. After a year we did. then started over.
Her meals were always simple. she would have hot cereal with toast, and a cup of hot water before a cup of coffee, she said it kept her regular. Lunch was a salad without lettuce. It consisted of broccoli with cherry tomatoes cut in half and 5 almonds. Dinner was usually a piece of broiled fish or chicken with rice or noodles and a vegetable. Desert was almost always Heavenly Hash ice cream.
After a while, I would bring my 5 year old Tina and they would sit on the bed playing with Marys jewelry and hats. One hat from the 50’s had a large bird of paradise attached. Mary taught Tina to play cards. When she became ambulatory we she became ambulatory, I would take Mary and Tina on outings. I introduced her to her first taco and miniature golf. Mary was a member of The Daughter of the American Revolution, and when they were having their conference in Washington DC, she asked me to take her. She shared a hotel room with Tina and payed for my husband and I to have a room. She was so beautiful dressed in her long gown for the Ball.
Mary was a beautiful woman inside and out. She taught me so much about forgiveness, values and integrity. She died when she was a few years later, but I will never forget all she has done for me and how it ended up that she became one of my best friends.