Older people are like fiction books in that their lives are phenomenal, intriguing stories. I especially cherish a friendship with my long-ago oldest neighbor, Mrs. Pohlmeyer (Mrs. P) , who loved to teach me the “right way” to peel potatoes (with a paring knife, not a peeler). It seemed to me that she was always peeling potatoes! As it turned out, I learned from my mother that Mrs. P didn’t care about my peeling potatoes at all. Mom said that Mrs. P simply loved having me around and peeling potatoes was as good of an excuse as any for me to stay and visit with her longer. Wow…did I ever feel special! I loved our visits as well.
Then there was Mrs. P.’s neighbor who lived upstairs, Clara Codona. For a very long time I thought her and Mrs. P. were kidding me when they said the huge picture of the trapeze artists that hung over Clara’s couch was actually Clara and her deceased husband. It turns out they were not kidding! Oh, how I could have spent so many more hours looking at old black and white photos of Clara and Alfredo Codona twirling through the air. (Since the Internet came into play, I was excited to learn more about Clara and the infamous “Flying Codonas” —quite the story!)
I often wondered why I called Clara by her first name but not Mrs. P. I have tried to remember what Clara used to call Mrs. P, but for the life of me, I cannot. I loved them both, spent much more time with Mrs. P, helping with chores, running errands and of course, peeling potatoes. However, I realized that I felt closer to Clara.
I think the closeness I felt was because Clara and I were on a first-name basis, just like the rest of my childhood friends. Even though her past life was a fantastic fairytale and she was at least 50 years older than me, she was still very real and down-to-earth to me because she was simply “Clara.”
Mrs. P, Clara and I shared a special bond. I knew when Mrs. P. got crabby, I should go because it was time for her nap. I knew that when Clara got really teary-eyed during her stories, I was to leave. And I know they both made quite a lasting impression on me—Mrs. P. with her proper ways and Clara, with her exciting stories, yet seemingly sad life.
You have an opportunity to be just as impressed as I was with Mrs. P and Clara in getting to know many spiritual friends by listening to St. Anthony Messenger Press’s audiobook, My Life with the Saints, by Father James Martin, S.J., in your car, on-the-go, or anywhere. You can also download it from Audible.com! Whichever option you choose, you can be inspired by our saintly friends like never before!
GRAVESITE IMAGE: Clara Codona’s grave marker at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles by Mark Masek used with permission (cemeteryguide.com).