Mary has the uncanny ability to connect with people, all kinds of people. No matter where we go she manages to meet and get to know anyone she encounters. People just seem to open up to her. They must sense that she is genuinely interested in them. I get a real charge out of being with her and observing her while she does that. I never get tired of watching her work her magic with total strangers who, after a brief few moments with her, leave knowing they have made a new friend. I don’t quite know how she does it, but it happens nearly every time we are in a situation where strangers might encounter each other.
Several times during our trip out west we met strangers in various situations who, when we parted, were convinced we were their new best friends, just because of the way Mary related to them. One day we were out for lunch when we entered a stylish place that only had room at the bar too seat us. So we sat down on our barstools next to an elderly woman who had just finished her lunch. Naturally Mary started a conversation with her and before you knew it, 30 minutes had passed by and we had the woman’s life history and had a few laughs. When she got up to leave she gave Mary a hug and a kiss on the cheek and remarked about what a wonderful person she was for taking the time to talk and get acquainted. Happens all the time.
There was a clerk at a local store in Oakland a few blocks from where we were staying who Mary encountered on her nearly daily excursion to that store. They became fast friends just because Mary would seek her out each day to tell her what we were doing that day so the clerk could give us directions on how to get there.
One of the kids’ (kids? They are married now) neighbors in the building where they live had been somewhat unfriendly for some time. Naturally Mary set out to rectify that situation. I don’t know how she did it, but that neighbor is now Mary’s best friend in the world.
While we were touring around Lake Tahoe we met an older couple who were doing the same thing we were, taking pictures and admiring the scenery. Of course Mary offered to take a picture of them if they would return the favor. Twenty minutes later we had two new friends from Michigan.
Our flight home from San Francisco was as smooth and easy as it gets. Mary made a new friend on the first leg of the journey home, spending the entire 3 hours talking with a young grad student from Iowa, who got off the plane in Kansas City. By the time the flight ended they had exchanged email addresses and promises to stay in touch. On the shorter leg of the journey from Kansas City to Milwaukee, Mary made another friend with the young man who took the seat vacated by the grad student. He was a native of Somalia who immigrated to this country with his family in 1999 and who was traveling to Milwaukee to go to school. After giving him as much information about our hometown as we could, Mary proceeded to mother the guy and advise him about all the things that mothers are concerned with. They talked about school (the teacher in Mary took over then) and laughed when he told stories about his learning the English language and some of the misunderstandings that come from language confusion. He speaks five languages and he is obviously a good student and a very respectful young man who will undoubtedly be successful in the future. By the time we arrived in Milwaukee, Mary had provided him with several lists of people, places, and job opportunities. Of course she gave him her email address, too, just in case he needed any help while he gets settled here in town while getting started with the coming school year. He was such a polite and caring young man that when he saw me with my cane and my struggle to carry my couple carry-on bags when we got off the plane, he just took the bags from me and insisted on carrying them and escorting us all the way through the terminal. When we parted he and Mary hugged as if they had known each other for years, not an hour. I got a very respectful handshake while he called me “sir.” I sincerely hope we hear from him again some time soon. He gave me a great sense of confidence in the next generation. If Mary wasn’t so quick to connect with people we never would have met and got to know that young man.
The flight attendant on our flight remarked to me about how friendly Mary was. I told her that given fifteen minutes she would have the life history of every passenger on the plane.
So beware. If you ever encounter my wife, you will give up all your secrets to her before you realize what you’ve done. But you will be happy that you did.