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A Martha Memory

From Lisa Sarajian (NYC)


When I got Mary’s call a few weeks back and learned that Martha had passed away I was stunned, of course. I remember going through the day in a bit of a fog, struggling to process the unexpected news.


At some point later that afternoon, I walked by a green market and flower stall on Columbus Avenue, and I noticed freshly cut lilac branches. I thought, oh yeah, that’s right, this is the time of year when the lilacs are in bloom.


That’s when the first of my Martha stories began to bubble up.


For a couple of years in the early ‘90s, I lived with Martha on 110th Street in an apartment she’d found just around the corner from the Cathedral of St. John The Divine. This place was nothing short of a miracle: an elegant and spacious, ‘classic six’ apartment that could actually accommodate a proper dining room table - a table that would always be ready for one of Martha’s lively and delicious dinner gatherings and one that would always have a vase full of fresh cut flowers.


I can’t recall how Martha met her. But there was a homeless woman who foraged for flower cuttings in the wild and (at that time) significantly less inviting north end of Central Park. This gal sold her goods out of a shopping cart not far from the steps of the Cathedral.

I remember Martha coming home one evening with an armload of lilac branches that she’d acquired from said forager – no doubt after spirited negotiations. I wasn’t sure about the acquisition. On the one hand, this was contraband from the Park, but on the other hand we were helping to support the enterprising forager. And the apartment smelled heavenly for days.


We became regular customers.


I’d completely forgotten about Martha’s lilacs from Central Park until I glimpsed some in the green market the day that she passed. Now, I doubt I will ever see or smell lilacs and not think of Martha.


Among many, many other things, she also taught me the absolute necessity of owning a good salad spinner. But that is another story.


Gonna miss her.

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