Ms. Maria


When hope fails…seek an elder woman with bright eyes.

This year, the first day of spring brought…sadness. A sadness so deep and total, I’ve been afraid. What is causing this? Unprocessed grief? A physical change? Anxiety over work and the state of the world?

So this morning, waking did not bring pleasure, but rather that same old heaviness of heart, brain and body. Yet, something in me got dressed in my best black lace blouse, black trousers, and my mother’s gauzy black scarf. That same something swept eyeliner across my eyes, and slipped gold rings into my ears.

I prayed and whispered the name, Tahirih. The Persian poet and woman-warrior who was unabashed about her own intellect and unashamed to show her face, without a veil.

Then, I bundled up and threw myself into the biting April air.

One of my jobs (as a freelance writer, I have several) is at a rehabilitation and elder-care center, a few blocks from my apartment. Every morning, I say hello to some of the long-term residents as they have breakfast.

Ms. Maria is one of my good friends here.

This morning, when I asked Ms. Maria, “How are you?” she replied, in her rich, German-tinged voice:

“I’m happy to be here.”

Wow, I thought. She could be depressed about being cooped up on a single floor, with few windows, thick with the smell of cleaning products. Instead, she took my hand.​

She placed her arm on the sleeve of my lace blouse, and repeated, again and again,

“You are so beautiful, this is so beautiful, you look so beautiful…” I complimented her blue knit hat and gold-rimmed glasses. Her bare face, without makeup, glowed like a soft moon.

“I am waiting for my mother,” she confided. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her…”

“I miss my mother too,” I shared. “I’ve been sad, but when I see you, I am happy.”

“That’s how it should be, between mothers and daughters. Tell your mother, you deserve a good life, a good home. You are beautiful, enjoy it. You deserve it. You are a kind lady…”

I gazed into her for long moments. Drinking in, not only her words, but her beaming spirit. There was no veil between us, no disguise or mask.

The distress signals in my mind quieted. The boulder shifted slightly; a ray of light arrowed in.

From her wheelchair, Ms. Maria ran a hand up and down my arm, like a young girl climbing a tree. I felt the strength in my own limbs, because of her.

She blew kisses to me as I headed downstairs, pausing in the stairwell to breathe in the ache and the awe.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s