Mae Maples was my childhood neighbor. She seemed to wear the same outfit every day. I’m sure it was different dresses but same style. Of course now I realize it was her cook uniform for Bill Greens.

I feel very blessed to have had Mr. and Mrs. Maples as neighbors but Mae is etched deeper in my memories, for Andy passed away while I was still quite young. One of the distinguished differences between the Maples’ was he was called “Andy” and she was addressed as “Mrs. Maples”. I don’t know why as children we were allowed to address one by their first name and not the other. It just was the way it was.

There was something comforting and calming to watch Mae hanging out her laundry on the clothesline. It was a simple chore, especially in the early 1960s before many households in our blue collar community even had clothes dryers. We still were using a ringer type washer.

To my child’s eye, our backyards were transformed to sail boats on the high seas, not bed sheets flapping in the warm spring air. We ran through the rows , banishing pirates. Of course, we received a reprimand when we continued from our clothline to Mae’s. Not that we did it often. But when both households had their bed sheets out at the same time, well it was so very hard to resist!

I love this photo, it transports me standing at her back screen door. You know the sound of those fablous wooden screen doors? The ones with a little bit of gingerbread wood work? It’s a magical sound, a time machine actually.
Unlike today’s doors, you could speak “through” this door and Mae would come from the shadows behind it and ask, “would you like a fudgesicle or an orange push-up?” Oh Boy! Would I!?

Mae would disappear, and us neighborhood kids would crane our necks and stand on our tippytoes.

Oh how I wish my parents had one of those gleaming white chest freezers , that was just filled with all sorts of goodies. We didn’t have an ice cream truck in our neighborhood we had Mae’s General Electric Frigidaire!

Now I realize it wasn’t really that large and was filled with boring meats and other fare. That in reality there probably was only two boxes of ice cream treats. Mae was a grandmother by the time I came among and like grandmas today, she made sure to have something on hand for when her grandchildren came to visit.

But there were many times when we looked at her as OUR grandmother. She had the look down pat: white hair done up in a tight bun (often with hairnet over it), cardigan sweater over her starch white dress, white sensible shoes. Her posture was so straight and strong–an air of authority yet approachable.

For the longest time I thought she was a nurse. The clothes, along with the fact she fixed up many scraped knees with her metal box of bandaids (cause band-aid is stuck on me). We took a many stumbles learning to ride our bikes on the sidewalk in front of our homes. Just the usual shenanigans.

Mae was, as I mentioned earlier, a cook and baker at Bill Green’s. A truck/greyhound bus stop and gas station from the 1940s to the late 1980s. Located just north of the railroad viaduct, on the east side on M-53 in Imlay City. Your typical diner with a whitewash cinderblock/ brick exterior.

Mrs. Maples was famous for her pies and dinner rolls. Years laters when she could no longer stay in her home and was living at Suncrest, she even baked with the staff in their kitchen. They loved it.

I learned later she was in a car accident as a passenger. I honestly don’t remember her driving. I wonder now did she ever have a license? She was banged up quite badly and when she came through was speaking Russian or some Eastern European language. It was then I learned she had immigrated to the USA as a young child. It was a revelation to me. But my mother knew. Guess maybe she had an accent? I don’t recall that– funny isn’t it? All the sudden Mae became all the more intriguing and mysterious.

Mostly though I treasured knowing she was next door, steady, dependable, a safety net. A bonus mother/ grandmother figure in the old neighborhood.

Years later I realized I was doing some of the same things she did for us kids. Only my freezer is an Kenmore upright, packed with fudgesicles and heath bars.

Now I treasure those moments that my young neighbors came over and sat on my porch steps savoring a treat in the summer heat. Those young neighbors are now college and high school age with busy lives. They did their growing up years in “Mae’s house”. I hope the memories stay with them. Its been a good house. I think this summer I am going to ask if they have time for an ice cream for old times sake.

Thanks Mrs. Maples for being part of my life as well as many other kids in the neighborhood–like the Donovans and the Boadways. I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day wherever you are.
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