Meeting Mary Taylor
I met Mary Taylor at around 4:00 AM, over the telephone, twenty years ago this past spring. She was on the trail of something historic, as she always was, and she had (as later confessed) learned just the evening before that I might have something of interest pertaining to her research. Of course, she was out of luck. It was still dark and I was barely conscious. I struggled with the concept of meeting with her in person later that morning, but she was so. . . insistent. She suggested seven o'clock at my office.
In truth, she was not out of luck and neither was I. Quite the contrary, she got a bit of what she was looking for, and I got a family of friends for life. Mary passed away not long ago and, naturally, that sadness has also provoked some recollections that are anything but unhappy.
I remember that first meeting in the early morning hours: Her husband, Representative J. Paul Taylor, dropped Mary off in front of my office and went on to some legislature-related appointment. Mary came through the door on a quest and we spent the whole morning engaged in it. I had been hired by the Guadalupe Historic Foundation to underpin the massive concrete and steel bell tower that rested on the ca. 1787 adobe walls of the Santuario de Guadalupe, here in Santa Fe. No sooner had we put spade to soil than artifacts and burials appeared. Before it was over, we had found over seventy burials in 200 square feet of space.
When Mary called, I was in the midst of these excavations and had temporary control of a fabulous array of artifacts associated with the Third Order of St. Francis. For the next few years we would meet occasionally -- at La Fonda, at the Santuario de Guadalupe, at the Plaza Café and at the Taylor home in Mesilla to talk about the Third Order and the Penitentes.
This was the also the precise time that Churches: Symbols of Community (now Cornerstones Community Partnerships) was getting underway. That program, centered on the restoration of New Mexico's adobe churches, captured and has kept the energy and imagination of Paul and Mary, two of their sons, Mike and Pat, and myself (along with many others) for all the years since. It would be easy to think that it was that project, which broke new ground in historic preservation by taking it to the communities, that brought us together. Really though, it was Guadalupe -- more specifically, it was Mary Taylor's passion for the history and cultural importance of that place and the artifacts under its floor that formed our bond.
As I reflect I realize my meetings with Mary were pretty infrequent but never forgettable. The first time I stayed in their home Paul was annoyed with Mary because she had put a bumper sticker on his truck that said, "I Work for a Jewish Carpenter." Paul clearly thought it inappropriate for a legislator to have any commentary at all plastered on his vehicle. On another trip I had forgotten my toothpaste and Mary gave me a new tube of bubblegum-flavor-with-sparkles that she had stashed in a drawer. I can still taste it.
I miss you, Mary. But be on your guard! One day I am going to disturb your gentle rest with a phone call at four in the morning.