Helen Wallace was an orphan. She had many dreams: one, to live in Philadelphia, and two, to study art and finally to be an animator. Helen came to Philadelphia bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Helen left Philadelphia in an urn.
Since Helen was an orphan she tended to give her best friends titles. She called us her siblings. We were honored to hold such titles because it meant a lot to her. I remember when I first met Helen. We didn’t realize it until halfway through the semester but she and I had most of our classes together and we lived in the same dorm. Once we realized that, we started to go on random adventures and explore Philly. Sometimes she had to drag me with her because I’m a Philly native. I didn’t care to see it all again. Helen on the other hand was determined. One of her dreams came true, and she wasn’t going to let it pass her by. Everywhere she went her face lit up, things I took of granted: the Rocky Steps, the Free Library, Kelly Drive, Penn’s Landing. She was so happy to see it. By this point Helen had assembled a large group of friends. Helen called each of us her siblings or even Mama. There were eight of us in total.
I remember when we went to Fairmount Park to celebrate a friend’s/sibling’s birthday and we got lost in the woods. I only had a faint idea of where we were, as this is prior to smart phones. All of my friends were jumping across the rocks on the stream and enjoying the moment, meanwhile I’m mentally retracing our footsteps. Eventually I got us back to our starting point. We walked there from 2200 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Frankly we didn’t feel like walking back. So we all piled into my dads car and hitched a ride from my father. All the while Helen was happy we got lost and was the only one who wanted to walk back.
One Of Helen’s favorite places was South Street. Whenever I walk down South Street I’m hit with a blast of bittersweet nostalgia. It was her favorite place. She loved the atmosphere of the people and the small shops. She was ecstatic when she “discovered” fabric row. She honestly drove me insane with her constant ramblings about it. I remember when she first saw the Clothes Pin Statue. She tugged my shoulder and whispered, “I don’t get it.” Today that memory makes me smile and I wish I had told her that I didn’t get it either.
I remember the last conversation that I ever had with Helen. She was weak. The cancer had spread to her major organs. Helen said to me “My Mai, I need you to take care of Manny for me.” It was a devastating sentence. She essentially said take care of my baby; I’m not going to live. Helen didn’t have children. Manny is a cat that she adopted. He is an all-black cat who has green and amber eyes. Manny also has Hemingway paws. The object in the box represents this black cat and more importantly the last promise that I made to Helen. This figurine cat is also dressed in a Halloween outfit. Helen Wallace was born on Halloween of 1987.
Helen Wallace 10/31/1987- 07/05/2011