My favorite photo — Grandma Mary Jane

All pictures tell a story. This one tells three.

See the devoted Grandma Mary Jane, lover of life, family and Broadway shows. She made her way, as a matter of course, from an assisted living center in Illinois to a high school in Appleton. She’d been making annual trips to North High School for the spring musical for 14 years. Neither rain, nor increasing mobility troubles, nor the death of her beloved husband and fellow theatre enthusiast Grandpa Vince, kept her from her appointed seat, audience right, row S, on the aisle.

Note her namesake, then 16-year old Mary Margaret (AKA Molly B), happy chimney sweep, and youngest of four active participants in the Appleton North Theatre program. She grew up in the wings of this theatre, and it taught her to fly.

That night, midway through the school’s excellent production of Mary Poppins, the fire alarms sounded and everyone had to evacuate into the rainy night. We stood there in clumps, actors, crew and audience, chatting about the unprecedented development. Concerned for his mother, my husband Vince took her to our car and prepared to drive her home. I asked Mary Jane if she wanted to leave.

“Well, no,” she said. “I came to see the show. I’d really like to see how it ends.”

Such a witty, plucky woman!

When the all clear sounded, we headed back to our seats, led by the irrepressible Grandma Mary Jane. Poised beyond his years, 17-year old Joey Krohlow, playing Bert, resumed his rousing rendition of “Step in Time” as though nothing had happened, and the show went on.

I took this shot after the show, which proved to be the last one Grandma Mary Jane attended in Appleton. We lost our beloved matriarch last year.

I love this picture for its genuine joy, and for Grandma Mary Jane’s blue raincoat and the green scarf she used to cover her head in the rain, and then jauntily tied around her neck, and for the way Molly’s left fist is clutching Grandma Mary Jane’s coat, and for the playbill in Grandma Mary Jane’s lap, which she will guard carefully from the rain and take back with her to Illinois.

I’m happy to kick off Mother’s Day weekend with a salute to the Outlaw Mary Jane, one of this blog’s first loyal readers. We’re so grateful for all the times we kicked our heels up with you, and stepped in time.

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