It was a sunny and cold Saturday morning, so typical of mid-January. Mary White bundled up to make her way to the Rhode Center for the Arts for the Winter HarborMarket. She came every week for her favorites, but she often took home something different as well. As she walked around the typically crowded space, she bumped into a woman in a blue coat and blue hat who looked so familiar.
Could it be?
Diana, startled, never expected to see anyone she knew, coming from Lake Geneva to Kenosha for a few stops, starting with the market.
“How long has it been?” they both asked almost at once.
As they hugged, Mary asked, “Do you have time to catch up?”
Diana said yes, and they left the market to find a place to sit and talk.
Soon, the stories would flow, and one surprise after another followed.
Since Mary was parked closer than Diana to the Winter Market, Mary suggested taking her car to Common Grounds, a local coffee shop situated on the harbor, where they could each have a latte and catch up on one another’s lives.
“I come to the market nearly every week and usually run into a native Kenoshan from high school but you are truly a surprise, Diana. You are taller than I remember and look as elegant as ever. You always did have a unique way of dressing. Your multi-colored scarf is striking against your blue coat and hat.”
“Why thank you, Mary. How could anyone forget your sparkly inquisitive brown eyes. Where are your wrinkles? I only see a few crow feet. Frankly, I think age has enhanced your beauty. My husband used to sweetly remind me of this.”
“Definitely, wisdom becomes us. True beauty comes from within. We have had a while to figure out what life’s about. I know that I don’t take my life as seriously as I once did. Funny, but I feel we were ordained to meet today. My life has been filled with so many coincidences or should I call it karma. The last I heard you had entered the convent after high school and was teaching high school in Colorado. Was the gossip true, Diana?”
“My dad worked for the Northwestern Railroad in the Human Resources Department, and commuted to Chicago on the train. When my grandmother, my dad’s mother, became ill, my mom and dad decided to move to Chicago so they could be near her. I finished my last year of high school in Chicago. After high school, I entered the Benedictine order in Chicago. I was drawn to their motto, ‘ora et labora, pray and work.’ I always felt I had a vocation and wanted to join an active order of nuns and after attending a Benedictine high school, I decided to join the Benedictine order where I had attended high school.”
“We were sorry to have you leave the church choir. You have such a beautiful voice.”
“Thank you Mary. I remember when you played your guitar for one of the Sunday masses at St. Mark’s. Our family began attending that mass. You had such a pure angelic voice. It was a perfect accompaniment to the guitar. Do you still play?”
“Just for family gatherings. My daughter is quite musical and plays piano and guitar. My oldest son plays the guitar in a band he formed while still in high school. His band plays gigs in local bars and I think they are quite good and my son has a pretty good voice. Perhaps, we could go listen to them sometime.”
“I would enjoy that, Mary. I have only been back in the Kenosha/Lake Geneva area for six months. I returned to this area because my sister, Jo, her husband, and their children live there and I wanted to get to know my nieces and nephews a little better but they are no longer youngsters and are quite busy living their own lives. Actually, I have been thinking about taking an apartment here as I like the convenience of being between Chicago and Milwaukee.”
“Kenosha has transformed itself since you lived here. The lakefront has a sculpture walk and bike trail. Our lighthouse is now an artist’s studio. In the summer we have all kinds of festivals and activities going on. The summer art festival takes place now by the Kenosha Public Museum instead of Library Park. On Thursday afternoons and evenings Peanut Butter and Jam presents musical bands near the Veteran’s Fountain. The Pops Band at the Band Shell on Wednesday evenings is still as popular as ever.
“There is so much going on now and the libraries offer many activities for families. The museums offer different events and speakers and the Kenosha Public Museum still offers travelogues. We are so lucky to have Carthage College, UW Parkside and Gateway Technical College. They keep me busy going to their special events. I guess I sound like an advertisement for Kenosha, Mary laughingly said. Perhaps, I am trying to encourage you to move here.”
“Yes, Kenosha has reinvented itself,” said Diana. “But we had a lot of fun back then, too. I remember going to the different church festivals in the summer. Remember, as teenagers, we spent hours talking on the old dial telephones. We scooped the loop. But the world has moved on. Have you ever been in an airport where everyone is on their phones, Mary? People are doing their own thing. They are attached to their phones. Everyone is in their own little world.”
“I know what you mean. It is a different world isn’t it Diana.”
“Yes, I guess the good outweighs the bad. Instant communication is not a bad thing, especially in an emergency.”
“Did you mainly teach in Colorado, Diana?”
“I was always good in languages and got my college degree in French and Spanish. I had a double major. I taught French in a Colorado high school run by the Benedictines. What was your major in college, Mary?”
“Remember, Diana, we girls back then usually became either a nurse or a teacher. I went to nursing school in Milwaukee and then got a job at St. Catherine’s Hospital. By the way, St. Catherine’s is no longer on Seventh Avenue, it is south of Highway 50 west of Highway H.”
“As I was driving into Kenosha on Highway 50, I noticed a hospital. Highway 50 has really changed. It has many new businesses and restaurants. Business has realized Kenosha’s potential and wants to get in on the ground floor. It is no longer a sleepy little auto town.”
“In some ways I miss the old Kenosha with the only traffic jam at 3:30 when American Motors’ shifts changed. The traffic has greatly increased since then. Patience has now become a virtue to be practiced. We even have had road rage incidents here now. As Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a-changin.” I hope I don’t discourage you from moving here as I feel the assets far outweigh the deficits.”
“Oh ... no. I believe that I have already made up my mind to move here. In fact, I plan to look into the condominiums on the lakefront. I love the water and would enjoy all the activities at the harbor. How many children do you have, Mary?”
“I have two boys and two girls. James or Jay was my first. Then came Maggie, then Paul, then Ella. They are 2 years apart, except 3 years between Paul and Ella. So I had a boy, girl, boy, girl. Do you have any children, Diana?
“Yes, I am lucky to have had Marcy late in life. She was truly a gift.”
“Now I am eager to hear your story, Diana. Mary’s querulous voice rose as she whispered kiddingly, ‘A nun with a baby.’
“It is not sordid at all, exclaimed Diana, laughing. When I left the convent in 1979, I went to France.
“France always held a fascination for me. I loved the language naturally and thought France would be a good place to figure out what to do with my life after being in the convent for a good many years. Whatever, the reason, I chose to go to Strasbourg and rent an apartment there. It is a pretty town located on the Rhine and small enough that I felt I could navigate on my own rather than be in a large city like Paris. I never expected to remain there as long as I did. Have you ever been to France?”
“As a matter of fact, I have. My daughter, Maggie, took French in high school and she spent a year there as an exchange student. Dave and I visited her there for a week. I loved the markets, the cobble-stoned streets, the churches, and the people were so friendly. We ended up becoming wine lovers after that. Dave and I became quite snobbish about our wine selections.” Mary snickered, “I think we were a bit pretentious.”
“Yes, wine, it seems, is the national drink in France. We always drank wine with dinner and, of course, cooked with it. Well I have digressed. Talk about coincidences, as luck would have it I landed a job in Strasbourg teaching English. It was a perfect opportunity for me. I taught English to French students. Being fluent in French was a definite plus. I loved speaking French with my students and I think was better able to help them learn English. As they say, it was a marriage made in heaven. I had to pinch myself sometimes because everything had worked out so well for me. It even was to get better Mary.”
“How was that?” asked Mary.
“I met a wonderful man at a regional meeting for teachers ... my soon to be husband. We dated for about a year and then married. A year and a half later we had Marcy, Marcellus. She is finishing up at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Her dad, Don, and she were always cooking up something special on the weekends and I gladly ate their gourmet meals. They went to the local market early on Saturday morning gathering fresh vegetables and whatever else they needed. It was a good bonding experience for them and they both enjoyed-cooking. The market in Kenosha reminds me of a European market, and the market is another reason, I am attracted to Kenosha.”
“Yes, the market has turned out to be a big attraction for us home cooks. With all the cooking shows on TV nowadays, I must say that I have sharpened my own cooking skills, although I consider myself an average plain cook. Holidays are when I go all out.”
“Diana, tell me more about your husband.”
Diana noticed an urgency in Mary’s voice. “Well Don and I were the same age and, coincidentally, he was from Kenosha, but I really did not know him as we had attended different high schools. I always felt that there had been some underlying reason why he left Kenosha but he never talked about it. He was a very thoughtful, kind man and I could not have found a sweeter and more attentive man.
“He was an excellent teacher and at Christmas time, we always hosted a Saturday afternoon Christmas party for our students the week before Christmas. Don prepared a non-alcoholic wassail and fixed all the croissants and goodies. He was an excellent cook. You know, how we women sense things, well ... I always felt that he had experienced some sort of heartache in the past. But he never revealed anything to me and he died of cancer a couple of years ago. I decided to return to the states to be near family and hopefully Marcy will follow after her schooling in France.”
“Diana, I can hardly contain myself. You mentioned your husband’s name was Don. Well I am putting two and two together in my head. My husband, Dave, who died two years ago, was a twin. He had a twin brother, Don, who lived in France. I may have been the reason Don went to France or at least I have a deep suspicion that I was the reason he left Kenosha to go to France.
“You see, I dated Don before I became engaged to Dave. When I became more attracted to Dave, I felt that I had really hurt Don but being in love and infatuated with Dave, I thought Don would soon find someone else and get over it. I never could have imagined how deeply I hurt him until now. Perhaps that is the real reason he moved to France and removed himself from the family. Everything has become so clear now. We are sisters-in-law and, your daughter, Marcy, and my kids are first cousins. I just can’t believe it?”
“Oh, Mary. We were destined to meet today. I can hardly believe it myself. Mary rose up from her chair as did Diana. They laughed and hugged one another. Welcome home to Kenosha, Diana. I couldn’t be happier to find a new sister today.”
“Yes, Mary, coincidence or karma has brought us full circle. We were destined to meet today.”