Monday, February 21, 2011
I arrived at the modest, white house in Grand Island a few minutes before 1 p.m. As soon as I parked my car on the curb and stepped out, Mary Lou popped her head out of the door and said, "Melissa! Park your car in the driveway in case it rains."
So I dutifully complied and thought, I like her already.
I stepped foot into a well-cared for home with pictures decorating the walls and placed on every available space. On the dining room table, Mary Lou had everything stacked in neat piles - pictures, books, framed photos, and even an old, battered telegram.
We started from the beginning - on the day that she decided to take a chance and apply for a job as a secretary at the FBI in Washington, D.C. during World War II. She was only 18 and had been born and raised in a small Nebraska town. When I asked her if she was afraid to go to the big city, she said, "Not at all."
It was a terrific time. She told me stories that made us both erupt in laughter. Memories that she hadn't thought of in years suddenly came back to her and at one point in our conversation, she said, "I haven't laughed this much in a long time."
Mary Lou met some incredible people, famous and not-so-famous. And her story of living and working in Washington D.C. during the war is one that deserves to be told.
So I'm going to tell it.
While we reminisced about the good looks of Clark Gable and Frank Sinatra, discussed the jitterbug (she won a jitterbug dance in D.C.), and lamented over our shared concern for the current state of our country, I said to Mary Lou, "I get along better with your generation than my own."
She smiled, and without missing a beat, she said, "That's because you understand us."
I sure do.