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Tanya's memories of Mary Kay

I first met Mary Kay at the Baltimore Ball. It was her first ball and my first ball. My family studied the dances the whole car ride down to Baltimore. Mary Kay had been learning the dances in Baltimore on Monday evenings. As unprepared as we both felt, we both had a memorable first ball.

I don't know how we actually met, but one of the things I liked about her from the start is that she didn't treat me like a kid. This is only unusual because I actually was a kid at the time, I was only 14 and I didn't look a day over 10. Mary Kay talked to me as though I was an adult. She talked to me instead of asking my parents questions about me while I was standing there. She listened to me and generally behaved as though what I had to say was important. And never once in the whole time I knew her did she say I did something well "for someone my age". I'm sure that was what I first liked about her, but she gave me so many other things to like that I couldn't possibly tell them all.

After that first ball, my parents convinced Mary Kay to come to Philly for our Playford Ball. She stayed with us, and we bribed her with a walk through in the living room (with her we made 5 people which is enough to walk through almost anything). Since Philly didn't have an afternoon walk-through session then, this was a great way for an out of town dancer to learn the dances. After that ball, we stayed with each other whenever any of us were in the other's neighborhood. She had a key to both of our houses. In fact, the last time she was up, she stayed at my parents' when they were away.

Mary Kay was the first adult I met who actually drank and enjoyed hot chocolate. We used to compare the various brands we'd found and she would always find great ones on her travels. She loved chocolate, and really savored the "good stuff". She was constantly bringing me "extra noir" chocolate from Belgium or France.

Mary Kay was a wonderful friend. We asked her to help us move into our new house when we bought it. We had about 15 people moving things from both of our apartments and from my parent's house across the street. Everyone worked hard for hours and then we fed them all and sent them home. Mary Kay was spending the weekend with us, and after everyone left, Ted and I were ready to collapse. Mary Kay locked the door after the last helper and said, "So, where are the sponges?". We cleaned out the new fridge, got the door on facing the right direction, and actually unpacked a lot of boxes before she left.

When Ted and I decided to get married, we decided on a fun way to tell Mary Kay. I called her up and asked her if she would be my Maid of Honor. It took her only a second to get over her double surprise, figure out that we were engaged and say "That's wonderful" and "Yes". A few hours later she called and left a wonderful message on our answering machine saying how wonderful she thought it was that we were getting married and that she hadn't had a chance to say that before because she was so surprised.

She asked me a few weeks later what she should wear, and I told her whatever she wanted. She ended up showing me three dresses she liked (I told her they were all fine) and she picked the one she liked best (because she could wear it dancing later). She told me frequently how nice it was to be in a wedding where you liked the bridesmaid dresses. At every ball after our wedding, she would say "I'm wearing my wedding dress" and she would wear the dress she had worn at my wedding. Since I was still wearing my wedding dress to balls, she always remarked how nice it was to both wear our wedding dresses together.

At the wedding, she kept everything together, keeping track of when we wanted things to happen and quietly making sure they did. She drove us to the actual event (very calmly dealing with my forgotten earrings by simply turning around and driving us back home for me to get them). After the wedding was over, she helped load everything back in her car and came home with us to help celebrate with a (now annual) wedding pinochle extravaganza.

The last year Mary Kay was working, Congress wouldn't pass the budget, so the government furloughed all the "non-essential" workers. Mary Kay was visiting us for our Twelfth Night dance when they announced that the budget was balanced and all government workers should report to work on Monday. Saturday night and Sunday morning we got a blizzard and I-95 was closed down, which meant Mary Kay couldn't get back to Washington. We sat in the living room of our house and played pinochle all day.

Mary Kay retired early because she figured out that she would get 80% of her income if she retired which meant she was working 5 days a week for 20% of her pay. She really enjoyed her retirement. She traveled to dances, volunteered for CDSS at Pinewoods one summer, and got more out of town caller jobs. I'm glad she got a chance to do the fun things she'd always wanted to have time for.

Mary Kay was a very organized person in some ways. She kept a file on her computer with every Free Cell game she had ever played successfully. On the other hand, she once sent my band a program from Pinewoods and then asked me the next time she saw me for a copy of it because she couldn't find hers. She had piles of catalogs on about half the steps in her house, and when we arrived back to her house late at night after a ball we all had to stand around while she cleared off her dining room table so we could sit down at it. She knew what was in each pile, and as long as she was the one who moved it, she would be able to find it after we left. She didn't clean up when we were coming over, but we were family, so it was ok. She certainly never complained about our mess when she stayed with us.

There were many giraffes in Mary Kay's house. There were small stuffed giraffes, large wooden ones, medium-sized giraffes, giraffe bowls, spoons, etc. She collected them and enjoyed having them around her. I believe she even had one in her car. I don't remember how she said the collection started, but I remember the look on her face when we brought her a giraffe family (a wooden one).

One time when Mary Kay was hungry in the middle of the night after having been away, she ended up going shopping because she really had an urge for something (it was either a pickle or peanut butter). She passed a homeless person outside the store asking for money. Mary Kay said she wouldn't give him money, but would be happy to buy him something to eat if he wanted. She took him into the Supermarket and he chose a very strange sandwich. She got her pickles or peanut butter or whatever she had wanted, along with some yogurt and something non-edible, and paid for both of their purchases, handed him the bag with his sandwich and drove home. When she opened her bag at home, she found that she had taken the wrong one. She didn't really want to drive back to the supermarket, but she knew that he wouldn't eat what she had bought for herself and she really had wanted it pretty badly anyway, so she decided to go back to the supermarket and exchange bags. Sure enough, he was waiting near the entrance, he said, "I knew you'd be back" and they switched. She really enjoyed that story.

Mary Kay was a very generous person. When I had braces, my family and Mary Kay went out on Tuesday night from Pinewoods for lobster. I couldn't eat lobster with the braces, so I ordered something else, but everyone else had lobster. I was lamenting that I couldn't even eat the meat from the little legs that everyone else wasn't even bothering to eat. When Mary Kay finished eating, she patiently worked the meat out of the little legs of every lobster at our table so that I could enjoy the part of the lobster I liked best even with my braces.

Mary Kay loved to tell the story about the person who asked her why her kids lived in Philadelphia. I'm sure we had just been somewhere with her without my parents to help the impression along, but we also felt so close to Mary Kay that she called us her "East Coast family". She took her nieces and nephews on trips (they got to pick a destination and she would take them there). I went with her on a weeklong dancing trip up to the Brattleboro Dawn Dance. We danced every day on the way up (twice on one day), danced all night at the Dawn Dance (actually, I fell asleep before 2). We stayed with musicians and callers of most of the areas we danced in. We picked up a few extra people on our way, ending up with two vehicles for most of the trip. I felt like that was my family trip with her. Mary Kay joined the rest of my family to buy me my first computer when I graduated from college.

When I graduated from graduate school, Mary Kay offered me a trip to visit her in Paris. She paid my airfare and let me stay in her apartment, so Ted and I got a trip to Paris for only the cost of his airfare. Mary Kay even took us out to dinner most nights, (I was a starving student). She was working there, so we would go see the sights all day and meet her in the evening. She went with us on one of our day trips and we had a wonderful time. She told me lots of stories about her brothers and their children, and although I never met them I always felt a part of Mary Kay's family.

I am still finding it hard to accept that Mary Kay is gone. I loved her and I will miss her forever, but I will keep her alive in my memory.

- by Tanya Rotenberg