Abraham Lincoln once said, “every man over forty is responsible for his face.” I thought of this when I lived in the duplex with my daughter and got to know two neighbors, Emma and Mary. Emma lived next door in the house pictured above. Mary lived half a block away. They were both in their early 80’s and had known each other their entire lives.
Every line on Emma’s face turned up. She was perennially smiling and welcoming. From one of the Italian families who had originally had small truck farms all over our neighborhood, Emma grew raspberries and cultivated a lovely vegetable garden. She had been a widow for some years and tended it herself. She told me that while her husband lived, he worked the garden considering it “men’s work.” But she had watched him carefully and knew how to keep things growing.
Every line on Mary’s face pointed down. She had a perpetual scowl on her face and found fault with everything. While not overtly rude, it was obvious that she considered neighbors a necessary annoyance when you lived in a neighborhood.
Still, Mary and Emma were fast friends. Emma never seemed to have a cheering effect on Mary and Mary never seemed to dampen Emma’s outlook on life. When I asked Emma once about Mary, she breezily told me, “Oh, she’s always been like that. That’s just Mary.” I marveled then and now about that approach to friendship. Mary needed Emma in her life, but Emma also needed Mary. Together they were a living history book about the neighborhood. Separately, their faces told their own stories!