The friend that always was…

Mildred and Mary Catherine

There was always a gift to her from mom under the Christmas tree. Each year there were sarcastic birthday greetings to one another, just a few months apart. One always reminded the other they were older and wiser or younger and spry. All friendships are cherished, but there is something about those friendships that start at our earliest memories and last into adulthood. I have my Lynn. My mom had her Mary Catherine.

Mary Catherine was one of only a handful of people that called my mother, Mildred. (After leaving home she went by Millie) There were a couple drive-thru bank tellers who attempted to create a sense of familiarity with Mom and cheerfully greeted her with “Hello Mildred”, as that was the name on her account. That never sat well with Mom.

I did not know her very well but Mary Catherine’s friendship was very important to my mother. Their friendship was something I took for granted… something that for 82 years, just always was.

I can picture Mom sitting on the yellow cushion on the kitchen table bench, elbow on the table using the kitchen wall phone, or sitting in the rocking chair in her room, feet up on the bed, talking the phone to Mary Catherine. There was happiness in her tone and relaxation in her sometimes stressed body when she had these conversations. Much like when she talked to her sister.

Both were born in 1928 in Hamlet, North Carolina. The girls lived about 3 blocks from each other. I imagine they had a well-worn route between their houses. Perhaps they even had meeting spot as Lynn and I did. For us, it was Uncle Raymond’s driveway. (not to confuse future genealogists…not an actual uncle. 🙂 ) Mom told stories of plays they wrote and performed. Tea parties they hosted. Stamp collecting and pen-pals. Nancy Drew books and Rainbow Girls.

Mary Catherine and Mom grew up during Hamlet’s railroad heyday. The town had grown from about 650 residents in 1900 to about 4800 in 1930. Seaboard Airlines Railway brought that rapid growth. (Why Airlines you ask? Before the aviation boom this term was used to market the direct line or beeline quickness of the railroad.) This small town in the sandhills of North Carolina was known as the “hub of Seaboard” and saw around 30 passenger train departures a day. The downtown area played host to travelers in their stores, restaurants, and hotel. That must have felt like big city life to those two young girls.

Mary Catherine and Mom remained close to their high school classmates. The reunions were a big deal as were out-of-state trips to visit classmates. After retirement, Mom always joined Mary Catherine for the Seaboard Festival held each year in the historically rich railroad town of Hamlet, NC.

Mary Catherine was an only child. No nieces or nephews. She never married or had children. So, in my Hamlet archives box, she will have her own file, “Grandmommy’s best friend”. Mom had many treasured lifelong friends, but Mary Catherine was the friend that always was.

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