The courtship of Mary
Yesterday I saw her sitting in the second floor window of her time worn cottage, looking out at the gardens below. A quiet little house surrounded by the sprawl of suburbia. The image froze me instantly and I regretted not stopping and trying to take a photograph.Today I drove down the same street, hoping to see her again. She was in the front yard, tending to a patch of yellow flowers. The flowers were no match for her radiance. I summoned the courage to stop and introduce myself. I confessed that I had seen her the day before in the window and had returned to see her again. She smiled coyly and we began to talk about the house and her garden. She had moved there from a basement apartment when her only child was born. Her husband was an artist and times were tough, but they somehow managed. She never thought she would live to see times so bad again.
Mary spoke slowly and at times her memory would fail and she would pause, waiting for the thoughts to return. Even in those moments however, the resilience and wisdom never left her eyes. She would brush back the hair from her face and continue with her story, looking off in the distance as if seeing the events in real time. Growing up on a farm near Salem, New Jersey. Attending art school in Philadelphia. Marriage and a family and the struggles of the great depression. The freedom and peacefulness of still living in the same home for over 75 years now.
Mary is "over 100" years old as she proudly told me. Something in the combination of Welsh and English genes has kept her looking like she is still capable of working the soil of a small garden. She was quick to add that she never drank or smoked, and her farm upbringing had something to do with it.
I was politely denied a chance to take a portrait of Mary today. She informed me that she never takes a good photograph, and I could sense the ageless reticence of a woman who doesn't feel quite prettied up enough to sit for the camera as she instinctively reached for her face upon my request. I thanked her for the gift of meeting and talking to her today, and promised to visit again. And I warned her that I would be bringing my camera with me.