On most afternoons, Madeline Vain sits in her tiny, publicly subsidized apartment at Primrose Place in Southwest Baltimore and listens to the trains go by. She says the clickity-clack reminds her of all the trips she took with her late husband.
But at 87, Mrs. Vain doesn't get out much anymore. That's why she treasures days like yesterday.
Mrs. Vain and a couple dozen other octogenarians living in public housing were honored by the Baltimore Housing Authority staff with a home-cooked luncheon at McCullough Homes in West Baltimore.
"I haven't had such a lovely day in a long time," said Mrs. Vain, decked in a mauve pants suit with a long
strand of pearl-colored beads dangling from her neck. "It's so nice that people still care about me."
The housing agency's division of family support services organized the meal, and all the money for it was donated by staff. Harriet Taylor, the housing agency's coordinator for senior-assisted housing, said her staff wanted to honor their most senior residents.
The luncheon guests, who live in several of the city's 16 senior-citizen housing complexes, were given corsages of roses made of crepe paper and were praised by Robert W. Hearn, executive director of the Baltimore Housing Authority. But what the guests enjoyed most was the food -- including sweet potato pudding, ham, crab balls and macaroni salad.
"I really liked the pigs' feet," said Jesse Wilkens, 88. "I don't get much of that anymore. My wife used to cook it for me."
Mr. Wilkens, who started the luncheon with a rousing prayer, has lived at The Broadway in East Baltimore for 15 years. He moved to Baltimore as a teen-ager from a farm in North Carolina.
The thin, soft-spoken man says he has many friends in the tower rTC at the corner of Broadway and East Fayette Street and tries to stay active.
"We go out for walks, and I go to church every Sunday," he said. "Sometimes, I sit down and say, 'Hey, I'm 87.' "
"I can't believe it because my mind feels like it's 18."