Mary’s parents were friends with a German couple that owned and operated a luncheonette in Jamaica, Queens. After the war ended, Mary emigrated from Germany to the United States and the couple in Jamaica gave her a job as a waitress. They let Mary live in a room on top of the luncheonette. Even though the room was small with only a twin size bed and a plain wooden dresser. Even though the walls were so thin Mary could hear the buses coursing down Jamaica Avenue and the clang of dishes and utensils from the diner below. Even though the smell of fried chicken and coffee seeped into her room…it was better than living in Germany after World War II.
That day had been particularly tiring and Mary lay across her bed with her arm draped over her face. Not only were the hours long but the work was mentally draining because she didn’t speak a word of English. There was one regular – a young, handsome man – that saw the language barrier as a teaching opportunity rather than an obstacle. Slowly, over the course of many meals in the diner, he taught Mary how to speak English.
She learned his name was Thomas. He was an executive at the Bohack super market chain and worked long hours so he came into the luncheonette often, sometimes three times a day. For breakfast that day he’d eaten toast, two soft-boiled eggs and coffee. For lunch, a turkey sandwich and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
And even though Mary saw him twice that day, she still missed him. If Thomas came to the luncheonette and Mary wasn’t working, he’d play Elvis Presley’s ‘Love Me Tender’ on the jukebox and Mary would come down to see him. She rolled over to the other side of the bed when Elvis’ voice boomed through the thin floor.
Love me tender,
love me sweet,
never let me go.
You have made my life complete,
and I love you so.
He’s downstairs! Mary thought to herself as she pulled her shoes on. He’s come back for dinner! She rushed downstairs and saw Thomas in the far back of the diner, next to the heating unit where the space was so narrow that the booth was only wide enough for two people. She made her way to the rear table and sat down across from him. He placed his hand over hers and squeezed. She squeezed back.
That night, even though she barely spoke English, Thomas asked her out on a date and she agreed.
Instead of going to the movies on their first date he took her to a coffee shop and read to her so she would become more literate.
Love me tender,
love me long,
take me to your heart.
For it's there that I belong,
and we'll never part.
And after she learned how to speak English, Thomas introduced her to the American way of life.
“What do you want to do tonight my love?” He asked her when she met him outside the diner.
“Whatever you want!” She didn’t know anywhere to go but she trusted him.
He took her to concerts at Jones Beach and American movies and golfing. Their love burned with a slow but hot flame and over the course of the next few years they got engaged and married.
Love me tender,
love me dear,
tell me you are mine.
I'll be yours through all the years,
till the end of time.
They were only married for two years when tragedy struck. They were hit head on by a cement truck and Mary’s injuries were so severe that she spent the next two and a half years in and out of the hospital. Even though she lived through World War II, those two and a half years after the accident were the toughest of her life. And throughout those times Thomas was her guiding light. He taught her to persevere no matter how difficult the circumstances. To never feel sorry for herself. Thomas’ commitment never wavered, even during Mary’s darkest hours.
They were married for fifty-five years. Over the course of their life Thomas had helped teach Mary the English language and the power of self-confidence, but the most important thing he taught her was the beauty that is possible when two kindred spirits spend their lives together.
When at last my dreams come true
Darling this I know
Happiness will follow you
Everywhere you go.
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“How did you get through the most difficult parts of your life?”
“I always say, thank god we don't know what tomorrow brings.”