Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ann of the Cleaners a tribute to my first Ann

Icon on St. Anne

Does life foreshadow events or do we make just make things up as we go along, trying to make sense of it all?

Today I ponder about Anne?  Was it fate that I came to this work performing as Annie Sullivan?  
( Who by the way was christened Johanna, but ever for some reason I can not find in my research, after was referred to as Anne or Annie. )

In googling the name I find it is a durative of Hannah.  The meaning given to the name is:  “Favor or grace.  Prayer.  God has favored me.”

Famous Anne’s?  Mother to Mary, Anne of Green Gable’s, Ann Boleyn, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Anne Frank. 

As a kid of schooled in Catholicism I learned that Anne was a saint, mother to Jesus'  mom.  
Mostly I recall the St. Anne, St. Anne find me a man.  Perhaps this is how Mary found Joseph, her momma prayed for her. I myself continue the novena.

In googling The Anne Man prayer the sub categories came up as follows:

So indeed she is a presence to mothers and woman. and has much work to do.  As Annie Sullivan’s mom was a Catholic I am certain she prayed to Anne for intersession herself and her spirited near blind daughter. 

In my life, the Anne’s or Ann’s are many.  So many it seems statistically unlikely.

In my early life I was introduced to two of my favorite Anne’s.

Let me tell you of the first.  The first was Miss Ann of the Cleaners.  To my childhood world she was saintly.  Even her name sounds saintly to me, Miss Ann of the Cleaners.  Can you imagine a shrine in her honor?  If she had one it would sit on the corner overlooking Fenkell.  She would be on a pedestal.  It would be surrounded by the sort of headless mannequins that tailors use.  There would be racks with rows and rows of fresh starched shirts hanging about.  If there were flowers on the alter, they would be the blue corn  flowers that grew so abundantly in the patchy fields peeking up so often randomly from little cracks in the asphalt.

As a kid, it was comforting to me to look up to the corner from our ramshackle house on Fairfield, to Miss Ann’s cleaners.  In the back above her shop were apartments, with staircases that looked like the ones in West Side Story. It was all storybook and a Broadway musical to my child's mind.

I am not sure how, other than I was bold and always shilling for candy money, I do not know how I came to know Miss Ann.  I suspect I saw her smiling from behind the large plate glass windows of her store. Her look inviting so  I boldly went in and  chatted her up.  Miss Ann and her cleaner’s became a sanctuary from the uproar of my home life.  Still the  scent of dry-cleaning has for me the calming effect of a lavender essential oil. 

Miss Ann was my friend.  She was middle aged and dark, African American, with pressed hair and clothes.  Maybe she was my best friend from age 8-14 until when we moved.

Looking back I ponder…about her open heart, open door, open purse policy.  She would always find chores for me.  “Miss Ann, have you got any work for me? “ She’d send me off to the post office.  (Surely no one needs as many stamps as she had me fetch a book almost every week.) I loved her so and I imagine her me that  I’d usurped my brother’s position as her snow removal guy, cleaning the long sidewalk that snaked around her business.

Miss Ann, seemed to see what I did not perceive yet in myself.  That is that I was a soul orphan. 
For whatever reason, I did not fit; in home or school and being a doubter by nature and anarchist in temperament I had no soul home.  My circumstances and personality disabling. this kind woman never shooed me away.  Her encompassing spirit gave me respite.

During the riot of 67, (I was 14 at the time) Miss Ann stood in front of the cleaner’s rifle in hand. 
I could see her standing all militia like on the corner.  It could appear that she was scary, menacing, protecting her property.  I saw it differently. She stood at her shrine, the human embodiment of holiness, asking by her presence that those participating in the melee on the street, that all those rebels on the street, that they return to their "right self, their better self. " (And as one of the few whites on the block I suppose I thought, if it were perhaps a race riot, then Miss Ann as ever would be my champion)

That is what she showed me through the years, how to align my mind and heart.  She was my first Ann, my Ann of the cleaners.

Do you think she ever imagined the legacy she was leaving with her little acts of kindness?  Wish I could thank my Ann…

Perhaps it was she who bemused me with Ann, and led me on this path to Annie.

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