So the very first person I met in high school was Mary McKenna. She was a great student but also a bit of a wild child, getting in trouble more than once with various nuns like Sr. Florence Rose (naught, naught, naught) and teachers like Miss Ho Sang, who was our Math teacher. When Mary told Miss Ho Sang that she had almost gotten a problem right and deserved credit for that, Miss Ho Sang schooled us by saying that “almost never killed a bird”. We didn’t know what it meant then; we still don’t but I do know that it still makes us laugh.
She called me Chalkie from the time she knew me because of my incredibly pale skin. Whenever she sends birthday cards, she fills them with confetti so that once you open them you’re picking up confetti off the floor for weeks. She knew everyone and didn’t put up with guff from anyone.
We were both always All My Children and Susan Lucci fans and kept each other current on what was going on in Pine Valley. As my great kid started to get interested in All My Children, sometimes the phone would ring at night and he’d answer. I’d hear him talking to someone, sometimes for 30 minutes or so and then hang up. Invariably, it was Mary (or Mackenzie, as he has always called her for reasons neither she nor I know) and they were talking about whatever dastardly deed Adam Chandler had done or discussing the latest misdeeds of Tad the Cad Martin. I’d ask him if she wanted me to call back but she never did. She just wanted to stay up-to-date with him.
For the longest time she met men who weren’t nearly good enough for her but then, in one of those too-good-to-be-true stories, she reconnected with John who she had known many, many years before. Neither of them had ever married and I was lucky enough to be invited to their wedding with its reception on the water, one of the truly great weddings I’ve ever been to.
She’s not afraid to state what she believes, even if it goes against what’s popular. She’s someone who puts her actions behind her words, marching for women’s rights, immigrants rights, human rights. When she retired from being a flight attendant, she spent years going nearly every day to visit 2 aunts who lived in assisted living facilities. She was their biggest cheerleader and their most vocal advocate. When she had a sense or knew they weren’t being treated properly, she was a force of nature to be reckoned with. She has continued to do this for others even though her aunts have long since passed away.
When you’re 14 years old and entering high school, you’re thrown together by chance with people. Some you’ll like, some you won’t. Some will stay in your life, most will go. But Mary has been there since the beginning and has been particularly kind and supportive of my great kid, which is the greatest gift anyone could ever give me. Thank you, Mackenzie.