During the great shakeup of COVID-19, as I was deep cleaning my house, it occurred to me, why am I still calling myself Mary Stobie? Yes, I married Mr. M. Stobie, my first husband in 1979. But when we divorced 24 years later in 2004, I could have changed my name back to Mary McFerren.
What made things complicated, I had been writing newspaper columns for 20 years as Mary Stobie. During this period of spilling my guts in 750 words or less, I was syndicated by the Chicago Tribune. I wrote about becoming a soccer mom, my dad who survived prison camp, and my concerns about the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
Because the Chicago Tribune syndicated my columns, I felt like I had hit the big time. I did cartwheels on my front lawn. My neighbors gossiped about my having no gymnastic talent and why was I trying cartwheels at my age on my front lawn?
Meanwhile before I hiked in Three Sisters Open Space every day, I wrote columns for the Canyon Courier, the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. My writing generated letters galore, some positive and some hostile. I even got a nasty phone call in the night where a man swore at me and hung up. Because my columns were published in the newspapers and I received responses, I sensed my connection with a world beyond my kitchen.
Mary Stobie became known as a newspaper columnist, and then the author of the memoir You Fall Off, You Get Back On. But who was Mary McFerren the daughter of Bill and Betty McFerren from Golden? Who was the woman who as a Bard College student hitchhiked alone in Europe?
Who was the teenager who ran the barrels in rodeos, rode bucking steers, and tied a goat’s legs together with a piggin string? Who was selected as a “Screenwriting Fellow” by the American Film Institute in Beverly Hills?
Who was the actress in close-up saying her lines in a scene with George C. Scott in the movie Hardcore? She was Mary McFerren and the film credits say so. In the movie Boulevard Nights, I have a credit for acting, but my bigger role in the movie was introducing the writer Desmond Nakano to producers Bill Benenson and Tony Bill.
Then decades later, like a rockslide on Berthoud Pass, a worldwide pandemic crashed into me. It was during the ensuing quarantine, the name Mary Stobie started to grate on me.
I got in touch with my real self. I took up oil painting. I made new friends. I felt overwhelming gratitude for my husband Dick Lechman who married me, a woman who carried the name of her former husband. During 10 years of marriage, he helped me bury my mother and brother, both of whom carried the last name McFerren.
Dick said to me, “You are Mary McFerren.”
“You are so right,” I said. “I’m Mary McFerren.”
Mary McFerren is a grandmother and author. She is currently reading The Art of Memoir by Mary Carr and Laugh Lines by Alan Zweibel. Contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org