Friday, February 25, 2011

Springtime For The Tenth Little Indian

Back in the early 1980s, I would sometimes go to the home of one of my mother's colleagues to do various odd jobs inside and outside her house. I'd do everything from washing windows to trimming shrubs to scrubbing baseboards and dusting up high. She always paid me fairly, and the perks were unforgettable. Marjorie would usually thaw something out and sit me down to a great dinner. Her cooking was awesome; the flavor of the food never suffered from the freezing. My favorites were her moussaka and dolmades; they were so good my mother got the recipes from her and would treat our family to those dishes and her own phenomenal Greek salad.

Marjorie was in her early sixties when I first met her; she had an air of elegance about her--she was glamorous and regal. She had a portrait on an end table taken in her late twenties; she looked like a softer, prettier Bette Davis. Whenever she would leave the house, she would be dressed up, with her hair done and makeup on; this was true even when her mission was simply to go get cigarettes.

She had been divorced a long time, but she would sometimes still get lonesome for the abusive son-of-a-bitch. Whenever my work was done and dinner was either cooking or heating up, we would sit and work crossword puzzles together and talk about her soap operas. Sometimes she'd tell me stories about her younger days; it was clear even to my simple teenage mind that those days had ended far too soon.

I worked several years for Marjorie, until I had to focus on getting an education and a "real" job. She called me up sometime in the mid-1990s; she needed me to drive her to Prince George's County in Maryland, so she could attend the funeral of a close childhood friend. She had me drive her car, which was a 1968 Chrysler Town and Country Station Wagon that looked something like this.

During our drive to the church, Marjorie got to reminiscing about her friend. She talked about how they both had been part of a group of ten girls, all friends or cousins, who were practically inseparable when they were kids. Marjorie was one of the youngest of the gang, which someone had jokingly dubbed "the ten little Indians;" it suited them so they adopted it. This particular lady was the ninth one to fall, leaving Marjorie more alone than ever.

She didn't cry during the service, though her eyes did betray her heartache. On the way home, she talked about how she didn't want anyone to cry at her funeral. She wanted people to be happy that she had completed her life, and she was (perhaps) beginning her next one. She wanted to die in the spring, when everything is warm and fresh and bright, and birth and rebirth are all around. She really wanted joy and celebration of life to mark her death.

Marjorie died two or three years later, in the middle of January. Her daughter found her after she had been out of touch for a week; she had been dead for days. On the day of her funeral, the high temperature was in the seventies, so despite the season and the overcast sky, Marjorie got part of her dying wish. Her daughter never stopped crying throughout the service; I remember biting my tongue to avoid an indecorous incident. I did not understand her pain until I lost both my parents less than nine months apart. I imagined then that Marjorie's daughter would have choked to death trying to hold back her tears.


Palm Springs Savant said...

What a nice remembrance to her. I bet she is smiling down on you at the moment, along with your parents!

Cheryl said...

Great story! Life is short and it sure is good to have memories of people who left an impact. She was lucky to have you, and you, her.

Peter said...

@ Palm Springs Savant and Cheryl: Thanks for your thoughts and sentiments; it's always good to have reminders that we are not alone.