Rose King died May 27, 2011, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was 90 years old, and had lived in the same four-story house her entire life. She did not like to leave home. Generations of her family lived in the apartments below and above her, doing her grocery shopping and choosing to raise their own families in the presence of her gentle spirit and her cooking.
Mrs. King kept her four rooms spotless — the kitchen tiles shone so waxily that visitors stepped with wariness. She hung her clothes out the third-story window, leaning in a perilous and adept way well into her eighties, and never dropped a clothespin. She made Thanksgiving turkey and pies until she grew too weak to hoist the bird into the oven.
Then her nephew, who lived one floor above, and whose dinner she cooked each night, hoisted it for her.
Mrs. King was a liberal, though her radio was always tuned to conservative politics. She found rageful talk show hosts endearing. It was never clear whether she believed them.
She loved her family members equally and fully. This included the few lucky tenants who snagged empty apartments in the house. Once she invited an aging single lady into her waxed kitchen for some cookies. “Never mind,” she said, when loneliness came up in conversation. “You are a hidden treasure. A hidden treasure. Someone will find you.”
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The single lady never forgot those words. After she married and moved away, she invited Mrs. King to visit her in the suburbs. Mrs. King did — leaning on her nephew, clearly anxious, but bearing a plate of cookies and a gift of mixing bowls.
A small wake — in Cambridge, of course — was held before the funeral. Mrs. King lay in state, looking both like and unlike herself, while her family and former tenants sat around her, reminiscing. Everyone knew that if she only could have, she would have offered them something to eat.
Did you know Rose King? Share your memories in the comments section.