Cheers, Nancy!

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

salad oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

melted margarine

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!



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About winebeforefive

"If I had my life to live over... But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute... look at it and really see it ... live it...and never give it back." -- Erma Bombeck “If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. i'll always be with you.” -- from Winnie the Pooh “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” -- Laura Ingalls Wilder “Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.” -- Dr. Seuss
This entry was posted in Philosophy of Life, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Cheers, Nancy!

  1. Stefanie says:

    That was so beautiful, I’m sorry for your loss!

    • Thank you, Stef. Much appreciated. But as her son wrote me, “As Dr. Seuss said, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!’ ” And that’s what we all have to do… but it really is ok to cry, too, isn’t it? Tears of loss, tears of joy.

  2. Jed says:

    After the couple of weeks I’ve had –me turning 25 on the 2nd, my mom passing away on the 4th, and her 67th birthday on the 13th–I needed a moment to just sit back and remember her like this.

    I can still hear her voice and see her smile when she said “I just wanna hug your neck!”, only for me, it was more like “Jed, I’m going to wring your bony, little neck!” as I ran around the house, doing something I shouldn’t have been 🙂

    This really gave me a chance to see her from a different perspective. When our family found out that she had Alzheimer’s disease–this was several years ago but frighteningly not that long ago-I remember talking to my dad, and I asked him “Dad, what if I have the same genes that she has? What if I get sick?” and Dad looked me in the eyes and said “Son, you better pray to God that you have the same genes that she has!”

    That’s when it all kinda came together for me, that’s when life became beautiful to me, that I understood her optimism, that I was living it–that our family was going to live it, and we did, and I still do! Dad always said that we were a team, and ya know what? There were sometimes when all I could do was just grit my teeth and trudge through it, but I’m still here! I’m still alive, and for the first time, in the past few days since she’s passed away, I just get it now. Maybe I am yellow too, eh?

    As time went on, we had the Picnic Rolls less and less, until they were just a memory. But I can still taste them, and that’s a blessing, you know? It’s like Dr. Seuss said:

    “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!”

    You need to know that she missed you too–I remember her talking about you. You both did have a connection, Marcia. She’s watching us, taking care of us. That’s what she did–like we’re her flowers, and I know no matter what she will always take us with her wherever she goes.

    Much love always,

    Jed

  3. very beautifully written. so sad that she passed on. how lucky you were to have met each other, and how wonderful that you are honoring her on your blog. cheers!

    • Practical Redhead: Thank you… And you truly “get it!” We were lucky for the friendship, I am grateful, and yes, Cheers! If you haven’t seen her younger son’s response to this post, please read it when you have the time… Eloquent. And truly shows Nancy’s outlook on life… and it’s been passed down to her boys. : )

  4. Cyndi says:

    Wow!!! Feel like as tho’ I was lucky enough to have met Nancy thru u!!!! Sounds like an amazing lady!! Cherish her memory, as I’m sure u will. Nancy’s son’s response was a real tribute to the love he has for her. Thank u so much for sharing this.

  5. Sam says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your friend Nancy. She sounds wonderful, I would like to have met her but feel like I have through you. Her son surely is proud of his momma and that is all we can ask for as we raise our kids.
    You have been a beautiful writer since I have known you, continue sharing with all of us.
    Love you

  6. Emma Ann,

    Just when I read a post that I think is your best yet, you top it. I came back to this post after you mentioned it to me. What a loving tribute to a beautiful friend. I feel like I know Nancy. But, more importantly, Emma Ann, I feel as though I’ve known you my whole life. You were lucky, indeed, to have known Nancy. But that pales in comparison to the blessings you brought into Nancy’s life. I posted recently about a true friend being one of God’s good blessings. That’s what you are, Emma Ann. You are one of God’s good blessings. You have sent me more joy and blessings over cyberspace than you can ever imagine.

    God bless you, Emma Ann. You are a lovely and kind spirit.

  7. Pingback: Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award! | winebeforefive

  8. beautiful and thoughtful reflections of life and a real tribute to a friend….isn’t that what we all wish to attain in living our lives…the wonder of friendship and love….just lovely Emma Ann

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