Considering that our Head of Housekeeping just had a birthday we could say her sign is Capricorn but if you asked our guests at the Swamp Rabbit Inn they would tell you that AJ’s sign is “Welcome”. Warm as hot cider in January and refreshing as a cold lemonade in July, AJ Maronie is just one of those people who has a knack for putting others at ease.
It’s not surprising, considering she is the oldest of four children, two boys and two girls, born to her young parents in Laurens, South Carolina. Her folks divorced early on and her father went to work in Washington DC. When AJ’s mother would go to work in the hosiery factory, AJ would look after her siblings and keep the house in order. She was often called a “mother hen” even as a young girl. She considered herself serious, shy, and an ‘old soul’, preferring to go her own way rather than follow the crowd.
Visiting her father in DC every summer gave AJ an experience of a larger world, and the bustle of the international city fueled her dreams. But it was marriage that would bring her there as an adult.
She met her husband, Mack in a club in Laurens when she was 16. She had seen him only once before. He had just started college and had a car. He had given AJ and her sister a ride home from town one day and though AJ sat behind the driver’s seat, Mack kept adjusting his rear view mirror to gaze at her. He literally spotted her across the crowded room of the club and came over to ask her to dance. She accepted. The fast song ended and when the slow one began she was nervous but gave him a chance, stuck it out, and something just clicked. Ever the gentleman, Mack worked hard to win her heart with love letters, potted flowers (so they would grow, not just wither and die) and even did silly things like push ups on the lawn to impress her! They married a few years after AJ graduated high school and then moved to the big city.
DC indulged AJ’s love of music “ I’m a cuckoo bird without my music!” she says. She also loved the cosmopolitan atmosphere and her job as a dental assistant but the harsher realities of city life began to put a strain on the marriage.
Savannah Georgia and Tybee Island were the antidote. The couple had family there. They joined a new church and settled into what seemed like a more “grownup”, sedate lifestyle. AJ always had a flair for making a house a home and it gave her joy to host dinner parties and tend her garden. She explored the city by bicycle, convertible and on roller skates, swam in the ocean and went on fishing excursions with her family. She discovered her 'nature girl' side, hiking, exploring the woods and learning about herbal medicine. At one point she held an unlikely job as a security officer for a gated community in Hilton Head. Part of her job was keeping hoodlums from breaking into the pool at night and indulging in... ‘intimate activities’. “ I was tiny but I was tough!” she recalls. It was a wild experience. We can just imagine!
Life took a serious turn five years ago when her father-in-law passed away and then her little sister became terminally ill. That is what brought AJ and Mack back to South Carolina and Greenville. Anita Michelle was known as Chelle and considered ‘the stylish one’ of the two sisters. Unfortunately, they had grown apart over many years. But in those last years when AJ cared for Chelle the two truly became best friends. This is the time that AJ cherishes most of all.
As you can see our Housekeeping Queen has a long herstory of caring for others, a knack for nurturing and looking after folks. Her marriage to Mack has been going strong for 30 years. AJ is looking forward to building her career here in Greenville. The couple is working toward owning a home again. She has six assorted nieces and nephews to dote on. When asked what her ideal retirement retreat would be the answer was easy: an island somewhere surrounded by flowers, with great music where she and Mack can dance on the beach.
Sounds perfect! We raise our tropical umbrella drinks to you, AJ (on a winter's evening where the forecast includes snow). Thank you for sharing your island breezy attitude and big warm heart with all who visit the Swamp Rabbit Inn.