The first time I saw Marcella, was in 1997 in Puyallup High School as I waited outside classroom 107. I had decided to take a writing class and I was watching the glass door as she stepped through, momentarily blocking the evening light.
Our teacher for Fiction and Biography Writing was late. When instructors are late, I tend to doubt myself and I was feeling quite alone until this cute little dark-haired lady walked in, looking frustrated and a little frantic.
She asked "are you waiting for Marjorie Rommel's class?"
"Yes, I am." I was instantly relieved to hear her speak that name. I was in the right place and so was she.
"Oh, thank goodness." Out of breath, she continued on in a rush. "I parked clear on the other side of the building."
Of Course I noticed the wheeled oxygen tank and the clear plastic tubing attached to her nose. She was winded but I couldn't offer her a seat in the hall so as other students arrived, I began to over-share my reasons for taking a writing class. "I was reading these novels... and they just didn't go along like I wanted them too... and my sister is a poet so I don't have any interest in poetry... I've never taken a writing class before... blah blah blah. I just kept chatting, because I was nervous about taking a writing class and I wanted the dark haired lady to catch her breath without actually pointing out, "you, my dear, are out of breath."
I can't say for sure what she wore that day but after knowing her all these years, I find myself filling in those blanks with a floral, most likely blue or lavender polyester blend top with matching slacks, topped off with a sweater to keep her slight frame warm, her dark brown salon-do perfectly placed. I can picture her now, patting her hair to make sure it was presentable, her lips painted red and smiling a warm and welcome greeting. Marcella, neat and tidy, cared very much about her appearance.
That day in the hallway, I think she must have had her folder in hand, filled with some of the biographical stories she wrote during her time as a clerk with the Puyallup Police Department, a job she felt lucky to have had along with funny stories of the Sweet Adelines and her stint as one of their members.
That image is how I will always see Marcella. I am sure she would have preferred not to include the oxygen tank as part of who she was but, we don't get to choose how our friends will remember us. All of those things and how she cared about people is what I will smile about when I am not so sad at the loss of her. She was my dear friend.
My association came after she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension: a result of her years of smoking, which she mentions in a poignant short story she wrote. Marcella was told to "get your affairs in order. You have about five years to live." That statement would be a difficult thing to hear from a doctor. But Marcella put a smile on and between her and Roy, they got her affairs in order and while they were at it, they got his in order too.
After that first writing experience, I took another class, and another and yet another. Eventually, some of the women I met in these writing classes started a writers' group. What a novel idea. At the time of the first meeting, I couldn't participate, but I had made a strong connection with one of the ladies in the group and she invited me to come to a meeting. This is where I met some of the most wonderful women I have ever known and the Wild Women Writers were born.
Marcella Bateman was part of this group.
We met once a month and that didn't seem like enough time. We were all writing some very powerful words and each of our stories, like us, were so different. The creativity was limitless. At every meeting, I felt like I had stepped into this incredible world of fact and fantasy. For me, it was like a new awakening and I began to care very deeply for our little group and each of these ladies filled a different spot in my heart. We spent our first hour visiting and catching up on the events of our daily lives. The second hour was for our writing.
In this lovely, safe and creative atmosphere, I developed a friendship with Marcella. She was always such a positive influence in the way she carried herself everyday and in her writing. She wrote non-fiction and was very careful to write positively about people she worked with over the years. That was her main concern. She asked us on more than one occasion, "Do you think that would hurt their feelings?"
I visited Marcella at her home on Wednesdays and we became close. Her focus shifted after her husband, Roy died. She went from working on compiling her stories for a book, to cleaning out the house and making it easier for Tina and Penny, her daughters, in anticipation of her own death which the doctors told her should have occurred years ago. She showed them!
As part of her "clearing out" plan, she wrote vignettes about the history of heirlooms that she and Roy had collected over the years. She attached the story and then gave them to family members that could relate to those items. I always thought these were incredibly kind gifts.
When my family moved out of the area, I didn't see that much of my writers. I missed my Wednesdays with Marcella. The WWW continued to meet and those group meetings got me through each month. I missed my chats with Marcella, but we did talk on the phone occasionally.
The most difficult thing about Marcella being gone, is that I know time got away from us. I hear about this kind of thing happening often; we get busy, we don't make time and we miss out. I am sad because I missed her and will continue to miss her, I know Marcella wouldn't want me to be sad. She would want me to think of her and smile... to remember the music and the laughter that were the life-force she shared with us in our meetings and as a friend. She also would want us to reminisce about her writing. She was a terrific writer of nostalgia and the documentation of her family history, stories she told with love and care.
This is who Marcella, my friend was...is for me. A kind spirit. I know she would love for us to be BFFs. I can almost hear her giggle, nudge Roy and wink at us from heaven. Best friends forever.
|Marcella and Me at her 80th Birthday party.|