Because Life is Good, And Sweet & Short.
And you won’t burn in hell for winebeforefive.
I don’t care what the nuns told you.
The day I met Nancy is as clear & poignant as though it were yesterday. She had deep, caring eyes and a joyful smile which said from the get-go, even before words, “I am genuinely happy to meet you! Isn’t life just great?!” We said “Hello,” shook hands, introduced our kids — and were soul mates. Nancy was really the kind of person who was probably a soul mate with everyone she met. But that doesn’t matter to me. I am lucky and so very, very grateful to have known her.
We met at a gym, where our older boys were taking a tumbling class together. Each of us had a diaper bag slung over a shoulder and an infant in our arms — hers a boy, mine, a girl — and they had been born just two weeks apart. We were “older” moms, stay-at-home moms, and transplants from other states. In fact, we lived in a planned community where everyone was “from somewhere else.” That makes it a lot easier to make new friends when you move often for corporate reasons. Planned communities are probably the corporate version of the military base, without the angst of deployment. People come and go, and you bond while you’re there, and you keep in touch for the rest of your lives, because no one else really knows what it is like to move at the drop of a hat… over and over.
Nancy was strikingly different from the other moms in a wonderful way. There was a neighborhood moms-n-kids picnic at the park one day, and everyone arrived looking great in their casual wear, holding toddlers’ hands, carrying babies, juggling diaper bags, toys, Tupperware containers, and dishes wrapped in foil. Nancy arrived much the same way, but in comfy flats instead of sneakers, khakis with a perfect crease, & a casual jacket that said “wanted to look good for you girls because you’re my friends!” She took it up a notch in just the right way. She carried a lovely wicker basket with a pretty red and white checked fabric napkin peeking just so around the edges, with her potluck inside. Nancy had class.
Nancy was generous, and practical as well. On her old-fashioned treadle sewing machine, she created a “night-night” doll for my daughter’s first birthday. On one side the doll had a lovingly hand-stitched smiling face with wide open eyes. On the other, the doll’s smile remained, but her eyes were closed in happy slumber. We named her “Nancy Night-Night,” and she has been & always will be a treasure.
There were pre-Christmas lunches at my house & springtime lunches at hers, trips to McDonalds where the older kids could play in the indoor gym when the rainy days seemed endless. On hot Virginia summer afternoons, there were long conversations while the boys played on her swing set & the babies took their naps on our laps & on the sofa. There were talks of theories on child-rearing, family far away, our homes, gardens, decorating and moving, “what’s for dinner?” the near & distant future, and the careers we’d had before we were “career moms.”
She kept her late father’s shaving brush and mug on display in her powder room. I kept my Dad’s pipes where I could see them every day. We meshed, we understood each other, we formed an enduring friendship. I loved it that whenever I’d say something she liked, she would say with such glee, “I could just hug your neck!”
I read once that “Yellow is associated with happiness and success. It represents freedom and intelligence as well as practicality.” That describes Nancy to a “T.” Her favorite color was yellow, “because it’s so cheerful!” and that was the color of her kitchen. She laughingly called herself a “Pollyanna,” and in fact she was a genuine optimist.
She told me, “Once my kitchen is unpacked & set up and I’m ready to entertain, then I’m ‘at home.’ “ She shared that each time she moved, she dug up her daffodil and tulip bulbs and took them with her. I liked that spunk. “You can buy my house, but these are my flowers, girl!”
I saw her only once without a smile… when my family was leaving Virginia for Connecticut, and I went to see her for what was to be one final goodbye. We stood in her driveway, hugged, said “Good Luck!” attempted smiles while we cried, and were so sure we’d see each other again, and soon. There were long letters, notes in Christmas cards, birthday cards. We each moved multiple times to different states. I’d begun in Ohio & she’d begun in Georgia. Between us we launched from Virginia to cover Connecticut, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Florida, and for me, back to Ohio. We stayed in touch and stayed in each other’s hearts.
Knowing Nancy — a gracious hostess — she would want me to share something with you, and so I’m giving you her recipe for Pork Picnic Rolls, which she served me one sunny Virginia day that stays so clearly in my mind. (This can be found in The Stuffed Griffin, published by The Utility Club of Griffin, Georgia, first printed 1976.) One day, make this for lunch for a treasured friend. Cherish the time together.
Pork Picnic Rolls
(Do Ahead.) Serves 4 350 degree oven, 25 minutes
1 one-lb. loaf frozen bread dough
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. boneless pork (butt or shoulder cut in 1/2” cubes)
1 garlic clove, minced or mashed
1/4 tsp. Caraway seed
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. honey
1/3 c. dried apricots
3 oz. Diced cream cheese
2 T. lemon juice
salt & pepper
Take bread dough from package, brush lightly with salad oil, cover, let thaw at room temperature until pliable – as per package directions. Fry onion in 1 T. margarine until limp. Remove onions, add pork, stir in garlic, caraway seed, soy sauce and honey. Cook stirring over medium high heat until pork is well browned – about 10 minutes. Stir in apricots, cream cheese, onion and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Divide dough into 10 equal portions on a floured board. Roll each portion into 4” X 6” oval. Put 1/4 c. filling across the length of the oval to within about 1/2” of each end. Pull long ends together over filling, push to seal, fold up remaining ends, pinch to seal. Place rolls seam side down on greased sheet. Brush with melted margarine. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve warm, cooled, or reheated. To reheat frozen buns, place uncovered on a sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Nancy introduced me to the lovely – and at first I thought a bit naughty! – pleasure of a wine cooler mid-afternoon on a hot summer day. I think it was her classy, southern lady upbringing that made this okay. Someone I know and love said to me recently, “In certain social circles, it is expected that you have a mid-afternoon cocktail.” (That would have made Nancy giggle.)
Nancy passed away last week. I chose yesterday, April 13, 2011, to launch this blog in honor of what would have been her 67th birthday. I am heartbroken that I will never see her again. I didn’t know that when I first added the notation “Life is Good, And Sweet & Short.”
However, chin up! I know what Nancy would want. She would love this Irish saying:
“Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all.
If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.”
And so I will stay in touch with her two handsome and wonderful, caring sons for the rest of my life, and treasure the sight of daffodils and tulips more than ever this spring. Late this afternoon I will listen to her favorite, Ray Charles, sing “Georgia on My Mind,” & with a smile, raise a glass of wine to her memory, and be thankful for the times we spent together, & the amazing impact she had on my life.
Each of us can only hope that when we are gone from this earth that we leave behind people who remember us with joy & happiness, and who celebrate our lives and appreciate moments shared with us. No one can ask for more.
Here’s to you, Nancy, with love, gratitude and great memories. A glass of wine, before five. Cheers!