My youngest sister, Mary Teresa, was born on March 1, 1957. I can’t say for sure that she was named after Maria Theresa, the Habsburg Empress, but I do remember some discussion between my parents on the resemblance in their names and on whether or not to spell her name with an “h.” I was in 8th grade at the time and too involved in the drama of my own adolescence to give such matters full attention. I do remember my grandfather walking the half mile from our house to Fairfield Avenue to catch the bus across town to visit his daughter in the hospital after the baby was born. He took the bus because he was at odds with my father again.
Mary T, as we came to call her, was only four when I left for college. My mother took me to her kindergarten graduation when I came home from college one summer. Before leaving for Africa after college, I remember visiting her classroom at St. Ann Parochial School. Not the old building where I went, but the one built on top of the old church hall. If memory serves, she was in third grade when I moved out of Bridgeport to live in Kenya, North Carolina, and Texas for the next 25 years, with the exception of one year. We hardly knew each other. When I moved to Philadelphia in 1990, she was living in West Chester, married with three children. Even then we saw each other mostly at Christmas times. We did get to know more about each other when we drove up to Connecticut for the funeral of our mother’s second husband.
She visited Laura and me in Freehold, NJ when we brought Anne Mei back from China. She gave Anne Mei a talking Elmo doll. I wanted to punch another guest who felt he had to prove his sophistication by making fun of Elmo dolls in front of Mary. I could tell she was hurt. Of course, I didn’t help things by introducing her to the assembled group as my “baby sister.” She let me, and everyone else, know that she was not a “baby” anymore. After that I always called her my “youngest” sister.
Elsewhere I have discussed that during her last two years I spent almost every night on the phone with her, and about the Sudoku books she gave me, which I still treasure. Today she would be the last of the seven siblings still to be under 60. We celebrate the day along with the birth of her 4th grandchild at the end of January this year.