Monday, June 14, 2010

In the Midst of Death . . .


I'll return to blogging about Science, Literature, and Me in just a day or two.  But for now I must balance the recent posts of my thoughts attending funerals with one of a perfectly happy event.

Pictured above is Natalia Lucia Ma, held by her father, my nephew, Richard.  Natalia is my great-niece.  On Saturday she was christened in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

The photo doesn't do Richard justice.  He's an extraordinarily handsome man, just as his wife Lucy is extraordinarily beautiful.  (Am I jealous?  Not at all.  I look at my own marriage and think, "One out of  two ain't bad."  Particularly since I get to look at the beautiful half.)  He'd been posing for photos for rather a long time when I took this snapshot.  But it does begin to touch upon what a lovely young woman Natalia is. And that calm-and-in-control look?  It's only the tip of the iceberg.  Through several noisy hours in a restaurant, a baptism ceremony that an infant could only find baffling, and a farewell sendoff back at the restaurant again, she was as sweet as a saint.

When she's fifteen and she's done something to send her parents into a rage, I'm going to show up on the doorstep and say, "Remember the christening?  You owe her one."

And, remembering a departed friend . . .

Because I was at the christening, I could not attend the memorial service for Marion Roberts in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. Marion was the mother of my friend Gail and one of those rare people of the generation above oneself whom you could get to know as people and become friends with.  She had that peppery New England sense of humor that could cut down pretension and false sentiment with a single scornful word.  I liked her a lot.

Marion worked as a church secretary and belonged to an informal group of Mattapoisett church secretaries who met once a month for lunch.  Gail knew me when I was the secretary to Tabernacle Church in West Philadelphia, and used to regale her with tales of her friend, the long-haired, male, atheist, science fiction writer church secretary.  For a time Marion was toying with the idea of inviting me to come and speak to her group, but she gave up on the idea because there was no money to pay my travel expenses.

I've always regretted she didn't ask.  I would have driven up and spoken for nothing, just so I could tell a meeting of my peers how privileged I felt to be a part of the sisterhood of church secretaries.

And now she's gone.  The world has one fewer smart, strong, and sassy women.  To which I can only say: Damn.  At least I knew her when she was here.

Goodbye, Marion.  We'll have that meeting of church secretaries yet.  Even if you have you have to have me brought up north for the event.


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