When I worked in Chicago my job was in the HR department for Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company - the Gas Company for short. I processed employee health claims along with two other women. In our office were four desks lined one behind the other.
The new girl always started at the back of the line which is where I sat for a long time. Ahead of me sat Theresa. She processed retirements and pensions. She was full-blooded Irish, a redhead, not married and lived with her widowed father and sister in a walk-up near Wrigley Field.
Theresa turned me into a tea drinker. Every afternoon she would make herself a cup, and after repeatedly asking me to join her I finally did. After awhile I became the brewer and at 3:00 each day I'd get up and go to the back of the office to make our tea. I turned her into a black tea drinker because I always forgot to add her milk and sugar like the Irish like it.
When the other girls were making us crazy...........Darlene with her constant bitching or Andrea with her on-again, off-again relationship with her 3rd husband..........Theresa would turn around, look at me and roll her eyes. We were partners in work and inside jokes.
After six years of employment with the company, I was leaving steady, secure employment (on beautiful Michigan Avenue of all places), to marry a graduate student and move to a farm town in central Illinois with no job prospects. If one of my own kids were about to do that I'd be shrieking in a corner, but I was sure it would all work out and my coworkers were genuinely happy for me.
Except for one person.
Beverly was Theresa's boss. A few days before my wedding she called me into her office and said, "I think you're making the biggest mistake of your life and it's okay if you back out. I know your job here has been filled but the company will find something new for you. Champaign, Illinois with a graduate student? This can't be what you really want." I stammered some declaration of love for this man I was marrying in a few days that sounded pathetic even to me and went back to my desk.
When Beverly left for lunch I told Theresa what happened. She was no fan of hers and it was clear that she thought this conversation crossed the line. She looked at me and said, "You're going to marry Mark on Saturday and you are not going to give this another thought. She said all that to you because she's miserable and don't you forget it. If she calls you into her office again you are not to go, do you understand? Don't you dare go in there and I'll take care of the rest."
I don't know how she took care of the Beverly problem nor will I understand what happened that day, but I remember everything about it. Beverly with her self-righteous bun and severe suit, the punch to my heart that her words felt like while I gazed at Lake Michigan from her office window, and the look on Theresa's face when I told her what happened.
Over all these years Theresa and I remained in touch with notes and cards, but for the last three years nothing I have sent has come back with a response. The last she'd written is that she'd been traveling in her retirement and working summers as an Andy Frain usher in Wrigley Field. Wrigley Field, Theresa? Really? Every home game? Lucky you........was my note back.
Since that wedding day in 1983 and three different states, Theresa never forgot our anniversary. Every year like clockwork a card from her with a handwritten note would arrive in the mail.
Every afternoon I have a cup of tea.