The Oldest Cubs Fan in the World sounds pretty darned good shortly before her 107th birthday.
It’s Friday afternoon, and Mary Melberg is on the speaker phone from her apartment in the Cottonwood Estates Senior Independent Retirement Community in Plano, Texas. Thirty-three hours and counting until she leaves 106 in the dust at midnight Saturday.
I ask her if she thinks this is the year the Cubs will win it all, and she responds quickly.
‘‘Oh, yes,” she says. ‘‘Yep. This is the year.”
And after 103 years of wandering in the desert, with year No. 104 on the clock, why would this be the season of enlightenment?
‘‘Because they’re good, very good!” Melberg answers with passion.
She said about the same thing when I had the chance to sit with her just after her 106th birthday last year, there in the sunny dining area at the facility. I remember it well because it was St. Patrick’s Day. Almost everybody in the place was wearing green, but Melberg was wearing a red blouse and a blue Cubs hat over her white hair and was seated on a red, white and blue Cubs blanket.
She looked a bit like the U.S. flag in a spring meadow.
She was to be honored at the home’s ‘‘Senior Senior Prom” on Saturday, when she was to be named ‘‘Queen of Cottonwood” and the city of Plano was to declare it ‘‘Mary Melberg Day.”
People search for singularity in life, and here it is.
Mary, who grew up in Virginia, moved to Chicago in the 1920s and has outlived her husband, Fred, by 56 years, isn’t just an old person who has had the Cubs mantle tossed on her for effect. She is the real deal. Fred proposed to her in 1929 at Wrigley Field, for God’s sake.
‘‘She traveled to Santa Catalina Island years and years ago, when it was owned by the Wrigleys and the Cubs practiced there,” granddaughter Jennifer Anderson, 48, says. ‘‘I mean, she was a teenager. She’s been a Cubs fan since she was a teen!”
Mary’s official ‘‘Diehard Cubs Fan” membership card says she has been obsessed with the team since 1929, 83 years ago. It’s obviously longer, but who’s counting?
Born in 1905, Mary was 3 when the Cubs last won the World Series. Her memories of that joyous occasion, if there ever were any, have evaporated like so many champagne bubbles in the sky.
Is she aware the Cubs are now in the hands of people named Ricketts, with a new president named Theo Epstein?
Yes, she is.
Is she OK with that young Boston fellow?
‘‘I think we can stand him,” she replies.
Even though he was long with the Red Sox?
‘‘Not anymore,” she fires back.
Mary’s favorite meal, for those of you seeking the secret to agelessness, is fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans, with peach cobbler for dessert. At Cottonwood, it’s called Mary Melberg’s Meal, and it’s served at least once a month.
Mary doesn’t walk anymore. She fell and conked herself on the head to the tune of a concussion and 12 stitches in November. But she is still full of pep.
She will be getting her hair and nails done in preparation for her big day, and she told Christine Drescher, the enrichment coordinator at the home: ‘‘I want a party!”
A year ago, I wrote this about Mary’s longevity: ‘‘Consider: If you can believe in the Cubs after watching them never reach the zenith in over a century of striving, then you can take that belief and make it a sustaining force in life.”
I think Mary has done that.
One last question: What would you do if the Cubs won the World Series?
‘‘I’d go crazy,” she says.
Anderson doesn’t think the elderly woman has heard the question properly.
‘‘He said, ‘What would you do if the Cubs won the World Series?’â€‰” Anderson repeats.
‘‘I said I’d go crazy!” Mary says.
Happy birthday, young lady.
See you next year.