I invite you today to celebrate with me the birthday of a special friend of my 1940s childhood. Ann Kelly was one of a group of about a dozen of my friends whose families lived in our working-class Baltimore neighborhood of row houses and semidetached dwellings.
Three parallel rows of rental garages sat perpendicular to the backyards of Cator Avenue’s row houses. We kids made the wide alleys separating those garages our playground, where the cries and shouts of Mother, May I, Red Rover, Kick the Can and countless other games rang on summer evenings. The backyard of Kelly’s row house, seven doors up the street from ours, looked out on what we called First Alley, garages on one side, the backyards of Wilsby Avenue semidetached homes on the other. We kids gravitated to Second Alley for most of our games, nothing but garages on both sides.
Like most of their neighbors, the Kellys were faithful, fish-on-Friday, daily confession Catholics. When the time came for Ann’s confirmation, she chose the name Virginia as her confirmation name, and she became Ann Adele Virginia Kelly. Baltimore boasted several fine Catholic high schools and Ann, who from an early age wanted to become a nun, chose to attend Seton High School, named for Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who established in 1809 a community of nuns at Emmitsburg, Maryland, devoted to the works of charity of the Daughters of Charity founded by St.Vincent dePaul in 1633.
As young children and through our adolescent years, Ann and I shared a special bond, mainly through our love of books and classical music. We swapped stories about our experiences as fledgling musicians. She played percussion in Seton High’s orchestra, and I played played trombone and baritone horn at my high school, Baltimore City College.
We discovered as kids that her birthday, July 31, today, falls exactly three weeks ahead of mine, so she’s three weeks older than I, and we joked about her superior age and wisdom that comes with age.
What changes in our lives have these years brought? Today, I am a retired journalism professor and newspaper reporter. Sister Ann Adele Kelly continues to serve as a librarian for the Daughters of Charity of St.Vincent dePaul. I would love the chance to see her again, to share some great conversation. I’m grateful for our childhood friendship, proud to have known her and hope that today she enjoys her best birthday yet.