Shortly before we left on vacation in August, I received a surprising piece of mail – a letter that included a check from the estate of a dear family friend who had died earlier this year. Her niece and executor had included a photocopied picture and these words from her will:
In addition, I would like the following persons to receive a modest bequest, which I would like for them to use to buy something frivolous such as a superb dinner in gratitude for their never wavering friendships. A small token but it comes with genuine affection.
Barbara was one of my late mother's oldest and closest friends; I'm honored that she considered me friend as well. When I was a girl, her life in NYC, and later in DC, seemed glamorous, maybe because she was not a mother, which was the dominant paradigm surrounding me. Also, she brought great gifts whenever she visited! I still remember how devastated I was to lose an enamel-band ring the very day I received it, having insisted on wearing it despite its looseness on my finger. Although officially she was my brother's godmother, I too called her mine once my namesake aunts were gone.
When I moved to Richmond, Barbara was just a hop up the road, and I made plenty of trips to spend a night, see an exhibition, or eat something fabulous she prepared. She made us a trio when Mom and I walked the Lake District in the '90s; I never see a Beatrix Potter item without thinking BP sighting, as we each remarked repeatedly on that adventure. Charles and I were in Georgetown with Barbara when Princess Diana was killed; I think it was our first visit to the Holocaust Museum. She brought the Marcella Hazan to the Tuscan farmhouse Mimose that my parents rented in 1999, becoming the chef to my translator and Brotherman's chauffeur. And she came here as well, the last time on a trip from Greensboro, where she'd retired, with my mom. That was the weekend I'd decided to tell my mother of my plans to adopt a child – news I shared first with the confidante who could help sway Mom's response in a positive direction.
The check arrived about the same time the remarkable artists Robin Kranitzky and Kim Overstreet had posted their latest creations on Facebook, the Peepin' Pickles. I could think of no better way to splurge in Barbara's honor: a unique piece of art that referenced her culinary gifts and sense of humor.
In Boston at the end of vacation, I found one more fun thing that reminds me of Barbara: Marimekko Converse All-Stars! I bet she was the first person I ever saw who'd stretched that Finnish fabric and hung it as decoration in the 1970s. She may have even purchased her print in Helsinki. While I made a total impulse purchase there on Newbury Street (only to find the Chucks offered cheaper on 6pm.com), I was happy to finish (Ha!) the bequest, especially with Brotherman, another recipient, there with me. I wonder what he's done with his?
Oh, Barb, your lines will stay with me always: that punchline, "T'weren't me, teacher – it skeert me, too!" and "You can fool me on grammar, but you can't fool me on translation ~"