Day 135 - Mary

Day 135 - Mary (3rd person I approached)
May 15, 2014 - Mary did that thing, you know when you’re talking to someone and you casually wipe the corners of your mouth. And then the person you’re talking to does it, so you think you’ve got something there that you’ve missed. Then they keep doing, it, so you do as well, trying to be discreet about it. We each did it about four times. We were apparently good all along.


Born in Tunbridge Wells, England, Mary is the youngest of four, with three brothers.

"I was a war baby,” she tells me.

“I was born near the end of the war. I don’t remember the war, but we had a bunker in our basement. And people would come over to take shelter there. But Tunbridge Wells wasn't ever a target. It only got bombed a couple of times, and think largely by mistake.” When Mary was just four years old, her father passed away.

“My mother did a terrific job. She had the four of us, the oldest being just 11 years old. We may have on occasion had a hole in our shoes, but we ever went hungry. There was always enough to eat. We didn’t want for anything. My mother was tough. If you were sick, she’d say ‘then go to bed.’ She didn’t have time for anyone not willing to stay active. That was just how things were done,” said Mary. In England, for a number of years after the war, children finished school at age 15 to increase the workforce. “I left school and got a job. I worked at a lemonade company, Lyle’s Lemonade, in the office. I used to hand write the invoices and then the man next to me would tally up the totals and enter the information in a ledger. I made two pounds per week and gave my mother half of that. It taught me how to manage my finances. You had to be frugal and take care,” she said. 


At the age of 21, Mary left England, and went to work for a family in Long Island, New York. I asked how her family felt about her moving abroad.

“‘Good riddance,’ they said. Spread your wings and fly!” said Mary without missing a beat.

“I saw an advertisement for an au pair. You know, an au pair is a young house maid and nanny. The add said ‘Au Pairs, USA and Canada’ but I never noticed Canada else I probably would have chosen to come to Canada,” said Mary. A year later, Mary took another au pair job, this time in Los Angeles (LA).

"I got on the train and went right across the country. I didn’t care much for LA though. It was smoggy and dirty and just not a nice place. I stayed there for a year, and then went back to Long Island. Same family as before. They loved me. That boy will be 50 years old. But I don’t keep in touch. That’s never a good idea. Just move on.”


Mary stayed in Long Island with that family for another three years.

“They moved to Florida and I decided to go back to England. Everyone asked me how I liked America. I told them I didn’t really. Never cared for it at all, much.” Back in England, most of Mary’s friends had gotten married.

“They all had two and three children. My best friend said she wished she could travel. I said to her ‘I told you, keep the boys as friends and then you can do what you want.’ But she was already married and had three kiddies.” Mary continued working as a nanny.

"I went to Germany for two years. I worked with the military, serving tea and visiting the soldiers. In the commissary. They were active rebuilding, and worked extremely hard. It's what their known for," she said. Mary went back in England after working in Germany. 


“There was a lovely little magazine that I would read. It had knitting patterns and recipes and stories. And I saw an advertisement for Au Pair Canada. It took me another year of applying, but I got a position with a family in Edmonton. After a year I moved to Calgary. Then I heard Vancouver was the place to be. To be honest, I didn’t think much of it when I arrived. Downtown wasn’t like it is today. I would sit and think ‘What am I doing here. I should go back to Calgary.’ But I never did. I stayed. I took jobs as a lady cleaner. I did a coffee shop in the mornings, then I would do my nanny job. And on weekends I would make extra money babysitting. I like to keep active. And living alone gets expensive,” said Mary.


I asked Mary if she ever got married.

“No. I’m single single.” I asked her why the distinction of ‘single single?’

“It means never married, never divorced. Single all my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I enjoy my life. I do what I want. I’m 70 years old and I'm happy. I keep busy. I have three coffees a week, because I shouldn’t drink coffee. Thursdays I read The Georgia Straight because I like to keep up on what’s happening. I read the Metro newspaper and I do the crossword in the 24Hours paper. I like to dress nicely, and before I go out, I always lay out my clothes. I wear a pinnie (apron) when I’m at home of course.” 


I mention to Mary that I like that she reads The Georgia Straight.

“Oh yes. Well it’s where I find all the information about my concerts. Concerts are my treat to myself.” I ask if it’s the symphony or classical.

“No, no. Listen to this. I’ve seen Justin Timberlake. I’m going next week to see The Back Street Boys. That Nick Carter is a dream! I’m seeing Lionel Ritchie, and Steely Dan. I’m going to see Rod Stewart and Santana. I see Rod Stewart every time he comes to town. And I’m not the oldest there either. I have a wine. And then maybe another. I saw that Nick's brother Aaron Carter is coming to town. He had all that trouble with his family and money. Tickets are only seven dollars. I say ‘Good on you Aaron, working hard.’ I love my concerts.” #notastranger