02/24/06 — A song at Christmas started it all

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A song at Christmas started it all

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 24, 2006 1:49 PM

An unlikely friendship between a 92-year-old woman and a third-grader has been forged in the time it took to sing a Christmas carol.

In early December, 8-year-old Logan Merritt's class at Rosewood Elementary School was scheduled to visit Woodard's Care to deliver cards and to sing for the residents. Logan's sister Lauren, 10, meanwhile, had the opportunity to go to Disney on Ice.

"That's not fair. I want to go" was Logan's cry when she learned of her sister's good fortune, mom Tracy Merritt said. Little did any of them know that the field trip would turn into regular visits and an extended family.

The students sang for a large group of the residents before dividing up and circulating among the individual rooms. At one point, though, Logan lagged behind.

Resident Mildred Jenkins remembers the moment.

"Logan was in the group that came into my room to sing Christmas carols. She had an extra song she wanted to sing, but the children had left her," she said.

"I said, 'Honey, what's your problem?' She said, 'I had one more song I wanted to sing, and all the others are gone.' I said, 'I would love to hear you sing another song; sing one for me."

Logan sang "Amazing Grace," which Mrs. Jenkins said was her favorite song, and then "Silent Night."

As the children were leaving Woodard's, Logan said she wanted to go back and say goodbye one more time.

"She was nice," Logan said. "When I came back, I gave her a hug, and I said I would come and visit her."

Later that night, as Logan said her prayers, she mentioned Mrs. Jenkins, Mrs. Merritt said.

"She started crying afterwards. I asked why and she said she was scared she wasn't going to see her again," Mrs. Merritt said. "I told her she would. I'd take her there. I thought, I've got to meet this person who had an impact on Logan.

"I told her I would take her right to the room and we have been going ever since."

Mrs. Jenkins has lived at Woodard's for more than a year. She said she was born in Kenly, but her family later moved to Durham, where she lived until she was 90. She and her husband, Eugene, were married 56 years, until his death in 1998. The couple had no children.

"We really did want children. We both loved children," she said. "I guess that's why our nephews and nieces were always so close."

Logan's visits were mostly trips down Memory Lane, an opportunity for an older generation to pass on experiences to a younger one. They talked about how people used to wash their clothes, what it was like living through the Depression.

"She talks about her life. I like what she tells me. It's just cool," Logan said.

They became fast friends, taking pictures together, exchanging phone numbers.

Mrs. Jenkins was even invited to come to the Merritts' home one day, but said she didn't feel strong enough to make the trip. So, they asked if there was something they could bring or make for her.

"She mentioned cream of asparagus soup. She said she had a taste for it, but didn't think they made it anymore, and her nurses hadn't been able to find it, so we went on a cream of asparagus hunt. It took us three grocery stores before we found it," Mrs. Merritt said.

"I said, 'Mommy, look, there's that word (asparagus),'" Logan said.

They purchased four cans.

But the adventure didn't end there.

"It wouldn't do until we took them that night," Mrs. Merritt said.

"She came in with these bags," Mrs. Jenkins recalled. "It was such a surprise when they came in and had already been shopping. It was close to 9:00, and it was so cold outside."

She admitted to enjoying the soup, but said she is still saving one can.

"We can get you some more," Mrs. Merritt told her.

Logan says she tries to visit Mrs. Jenkins at least twice each week. Mrs. Merritt also comes back alone some evenings to read a book she said she and Mrs. Jenkins are enjoying together.

She said her daughter recently said, "You know what, Mama, it's like Mrs. Jenkins is our family."

Likewise, Mrs. Jenkins' family has met the Merritts.

"I have a niece and her family that live in Goldsboro. She was glad to see the picture of us. I was telling her about (Logan), and she asks about them," she said.

Neither woman nor child can explain the special connection they have found.

Logan shrugged off any deep-seated explanation, saying simply "she's funny and she's nice, and she doesn't really ask us for anything in return."

Mrs. Merritt said the pairing is not such a surprise. The duo shares an independent streak and an outspokenness, she said.

As for what prompted Logan to develop the unique friendship, she said "because I like making people happy and making her smile."

Mrs. Merritts' take on it goes a little deeper.

"We have just decided that God meant for Mrs. Jenkins and Logan to meet. It was just meant to be," she said.

"I think He led her here," Mrs. Jenkins agreed. "It was such an unusual thing for just perfect strangers to come in. It seems like we just had a special bond right from the very beginning. I feel like the Lord sent Logan to me and then Tracy and then I met Lauren."

Thinking back to the occasion that marked the beginning of the friendship, Mrs. Merritt said Logan's godmother, Lorrie Kester, said at the time, "This could be the best field trip you've ever been on when she complained about having to go ... and it has been."