Mrs. Irene Wolfe

by Merna Zimmerman
I was a very dissatisfied teen ager when I became a senior in High School. I had always been a well behaved daughter, but I had begun to notice that compared to many of my school mates, I had almost no freedoms.
Some of them had jobs and even their own car. Some of them made decisions without even consulting their parents first. Some of them stayed out all night. Some of them were free on weekends to hover at the drugstore soda fountain together. Most of all I envied that some had their own money to do with as they pleased.
cars, girl and baby by Sebastien Hamel
My parents allowed me to babysit with neighbors’ children. I charged the grand sum of twenty-five cents per hour. Even then it was a pittance.
Once I accepted an offer to be a waitress after school. On my first night my father appeared and drug me out. He was angry that I had considered such a move without his permission.
I had tried to appeal my case before, but he was firmly convinced that my time if not in school belonged to my mother, and she would teach me all that I needed to know to be a good wife and mother.
However, at the end of my senior year I had a lucky break. I had pre-enrolled in the local Community College and Mrs. Wolfe had phoned the Dean and asked if he would recommend a prospective student for come to her house on Saturdays and clean her house.
Needless to say I was not at all thrilled with doing still more housework, but I was smart enough to realize that this was an offer that my father might accept. Mrs. Wolfe was a successful business woman in my small town, and my father knew her and admired her.
So began a friendship that lasted many years and became so very important in my life.
Mrs. Wolfe had mentored many college students over the years, but I never knew that. She taught me so many things that served me so well over my life. Her business was located in the basement of her gigantic house. On the top floors she had apartments that he rented. Very soon I was serving customers, answering phones, showing the apartments to prospective tenants, making deliveries, learning how to keep accounts, do taxes and so many other things.
We often worked together and she was full of wisdom and very practical. She had come from very poor beginnings but when she began to have money she had invested it well.
When I married she gave a wedding shower for me. When I had my first child she gave a baby shower for me. When I needed an apartment because both my husband and I were temporarily out of work, we lived in one of her apartments for a few months.
Mrs. Wolfe had a blind sister and I was sent to that house with food and other needs and cleaned that woman’s house too. Mrs. Wolfe had many families that she aided, many with disabled people and some lived in the country. She still contributed help to some of her former college students that had gone on to earn advanced degrees.   Both letters and phone calls came from all over the world.   The woman was a veritable charity organization by herself.
She had serious health issues, but she did not complain and they did not slow her down.
She also entertained many very rich women in her house twice each month. We set up very glamorous bridge parties as a ruse.   But I learned how clever she was in soliciting funds from them.
My mother  taught me many things about cooking but I learned about cooking exotic foods with Mrs Wolfe.   Such things as lobster, crab, stuffed mushrooms, quail, bear and venison, and popovers, soufflés, and crepes suzette had never graced my home table.
Her name was Irene and I loved her dearly.  I learned how fulfilling it is to pay-it-forward. I have tried to live that way in my life.

Merna Zimmerman lives in Tucson, is a retired teacher, and extensively traveled in her home on wheels after retirement.  She is currently writing a memoir, enjoys  an active social life, and is an avid reader of books and blogs.