Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Belles of St. Mary's

It’s that time of year when, amidst the general good will and good cheer, the usual suspects are busy filing lawsuits against nativity scenes in public places.

But at St. Mary’s Catholic Home, where my Mother has lived for the last four years, the crèche is proudly displayed, there are decorations everywhere, and high school students in period Dickens costumes come every year to serenade the residents with a hearty “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and a reverent “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Christmas at St. Mary’s is a very special time, not only for the residents, but for the families who come to share the holidays with them.

St. Mary’s was founded in 1941 by three Polish nuns, who devoted themselves to the care of the aging.

Today, St. Mary’s has grown and flourished under the watchful eyes of The Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

They still wear white habits and veils and are among the happiest women I know. 

They are doing God’s good work, and it shows in their smiles.

When my Mother arrived at St. Mary’s four years ago, very much against her will (a story for another day – you’ll laugh, you’ll cry….), she stubbornly refused to participate in any of the activities.

But, the good ladies of the Activities Department stubbornly refused to take “no” for an answer.

Finally, my Mother said, “Tell them to stop bugging me. I’m not going to go to any of their stupid events ----- HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL THEM………I HATE BINGO!!”

And that was Madame Mère’s last word on the subject.

Or…………maybe not…………

One day I arrived for a visit and she casually mentioned that she had met some nice ladies at a High Tea the day before.

“Wait….what? A High Tea? What High Tea?” I asked.

“Oh, they have a High Tea every month. It’s just a small, elite group -- by invitation only,” she replied.

BINGO!! I thought (sorry, Mom); they’ve finally found something she’s willing to do. And that was the turning point for Mme Mère

For the last two years, she has looked forward to these teas the way a child looks forward to Christmas. This special little group of ladies, all over 90 years of age, “the Belles of St. Mary’s,” as I call them, gets together every month over a beautifully laid on tea in a cozy lounge behind the Nurses’ Station.

They laugh, they sing, they tell jokes, they share stories from their lives, all over a nice “cuppa.”

When the good Sisters leave, Vera, one of the younger Belles and a former nurse, can always be counted on for a risqué story or two that sends the rest of the Belles into paroxysms of laughter. (There’s always a Blood Pressure cuff handy for a quick check should things get too raucous.)

Here the ladies are having a sing-along at a luau Tea in August.

I’m on the left (with the flower in my hair) keeping an eye on things. 

I started attending the teas about a year ago to help out, and I wouldn’t miss them for the world. 

These ladies are soooo much fun, and the egg salad tea sandwiches are just delicious!!

My Mother is in the foreground in the yellow lei, and to her left is everyone’s favorite Belle, Rose, the violinist.

Rose was a professional musician all her life, starting as a member of an All-Girl Band during WW II.

Their Group toured the country playing on the same circuit as Nat “King” Cole and his Group, the King Cole Trio.

Sadly, we lost Rose just a few months before Christmas.

She died peacefully in her sleep. She was 95 years young.

Rose left her violin to her favorite nephew.

She is greatly missed by the Belles. 

They set a place for her at High Tea every month and put this picture next to her teacup.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the Belles of St. Mary’s and to all those who love and care for them.


  1. An uplifting post. May the peace and joy of Christmas be with you throughout 2012. Warm wishes.

    1. Some day I will share more tales from St. Mary's and the colorful characters who have become part of my life.

      Have a truly joyous Christmas. May all your most cherished wishes come true.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I do so appreciate and enjoy them.

  2. What a sweet story, M-T. So thoughtful of you to honor all of St Mary's "pensionnaires" and the dedicated staff who take care of them. I enjoyed seeing your mom - and you, bien sûr. "Madame Mère" is lucky you have found such a wonderful environment for her. Joyeux Noël, chère M-T. Best to "Monsieur le mari," bien sûr :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    1. St. Mary's has become such an important part of my life. I spend a great deal of time there and appreciate the dedication and devotion of the staff.

      I just dropped Christmas presents for about a dozen of Mme Mère's favorites, and tomorrow we will have a lovely Christmas Eve get-together there with several of the Belles who have no family members to visit them. I have presents for them, too.

      Joyeux Noel, ma chère Véro et à très bientôt, j'espère.

      bzzzzzz, M-T


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