I am so excited for you to meet today’s recipient. Her name is Charlotte. She is 93, born and raised in New Orleans, LA. I had the pleasure of meeting her as she and her sister enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon view of the harbor in Annapolis, MD.
People always ask me how I select the people that I give to. I wish I had some really good answer, but it’s much more of a spur of the moment decision than any type of scientific process. On this day I could have given my $10 to several other people. I could have given it to a struggling Naval Academy plebe that I had seen that day carry boxes…
Or these young kids that were patrolling the harbor…
I even tried to give the $10 to Alex Haley…
Or this guy playing guitar…
But in the end I chose the right person…
I saw Charlotte sitting on a bench with Jewell, the youngest of her five siblings. I immediately knew that I wanted to give her my $10 for the day. She looked so happy and relaxed sitting there watching the sail boats glide by. You would have never known that she had gotten up early and flown 1,100 miles from New Orleans earlier that day.
I introduced myself and Jewell, who lives nearby, told me that she had heard about the Year of Giving. The ladies invited me to sit down and we chatted for probably 45 minutes. The proud mother of ten children, Charlotte shared her entire family with me. There was the ordained priest, the Jesuit brother, the daughter that lives on a boat, Tommy who moved to Houston many years ago, Charlotte who they call “Suzie”, the son who lived in Pohnpei in the SE Asian Caroline Islands, her 6th, 7th and 8th children who were all boys, and the youngest two who were girls. Although her first five children didn’t have children the other five combined to have 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Charlotte graduated high school at 16 and went to Normal school to become a teacher and began teaching in the New Orleans public school system in the mid thirties at the age of 18. But it was one summer that she was studying at Loyola that she met the man who ended up being her husband. “My friend Charlie introduced me to him. He lived over on Bank Street.” She told me how things were different back then and they used to go out more in groups as friends rather than couples. “I had decided that I was going to start dating someone else, but then my husband asked me out for every Saturday night for the next year!” That’s a pretty good strategy. Unfortunately he died in 1978 after 40 years of marriage.
The sun began to lower in the sky slightly and I could feel my neck starting to get burned. Charlotte seemed comfortable though. She came prepared with a beautiful scarf that not only protected her skin from the sun but also matched her earrings and necklace. The hot sun might have had a slight influence on her decision to get some ice cream with the $10.
Travel seemed to be something that she really enjoyed. “I’ve been to France, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, Thailand, Hong Kong – come to think of it I left a bathing suit in Hong Kong,” she said making us all laugh. She also made several trips to the Pacific to visit her son who lived in the Caroline Islands. He had gone there initially as part of a mission and ended up running an agriculture school.
No matter where she has traveled, she always ends up back in New Orleans. “You can get just about the best food in the world in Nawlins,” according to Charlotte. I have to admit, some of my favorite meals have been there. From the turtle soup at Commander’s Palace to fried green tomatoes from Jacques-Imo’s Café to the world’s best muffuletta sandwich at Central Grocery, it’s a food lover’s paradise. By the way, how do you spell muffuletta…I have seen it this way and also muffulatta and muffalata…but it doesn’t seem consistent. Anyway, even the coffee at Café du Monde is pretty extraordinary – or maybe it’s the side order of beignets that makes the coffee so delicious! “Maspero’s Café also makes a good muffuletta sandwich,” according to Charlotte. I will have to add that place to my list.
About this time Charlotte looked at me and said, “You know the more I think about this I think I have heard about what you are doing on the news in New Orleans.” There was a short pause and she thought for a second, “But I remember thinking when I heard about it, ‘that’s never gonna happen to me!’”
Jewell’s husband arrived and took a seat next to his wife. “I made ten dollars while you were gone,” Charlotte quipped.
I had so many other questions in my head for Charlotte. She was such a wonderful woman, but they needed to get going. She doesn’t use email so she game me her home address. I plan to send her a letter with this blog posting printed out. I told her that I was going to look her up the next time I was in New Orleans. She smiled and said that that would be nice. She’s avid bridge player and I’m looking forward to having her as my bridge partner.
The three turned their backs to the sail boats and the glimmering water and Charlotte steadied herself behind her walker. I watched them fade toward the center of picturesque Annapolis.
What amazing people I meet!