I was working as a page in the children's section of the local library. I can't recall exactly how our conversation started. I believe I was checking out Laura's grandmother's books, which happened to be either "The Hero and the Crown" or "The Blue Sword" by Robin McKinley. It was probably one or the other, because I must have remarked that it was one of my favorite books. Her grandmother, being the amazing person that she was, mentioned that she had a granddaughter who also liked those books. At some point, she must have encouraged me to write to her granddaughter, who normally lived in Iowa but who was away in Maine at camp. Somehow in the conversation it must have been discovered that Laura and I were the same age and also both about to be incoming freshman at different schools.
It is an odd story. It was difficult to explain to people who aren't letter writers (this is the early 90s before the wide adoption of the internet) how I met Laura. She and I started writing back and forth, and became friends.
And it was always lovely visiting her grandmother when I was home on break. She lived around two blocks from my high school. She was an amazing woman. She was the same age as my paternal grandmother, but they were (are) different in many ways. Laura's grandmother didn't pay her taxes for seven years (a la Ralph Waldo Emerson) because she disagreed with some of the actions of the federal government. She was active in the league of women voters. She was someone who believed in her community, and loved her family (particularly my friend Laura). She divorced in an age before divorce was completely socially acceptable, and continued to be a strong, independent, stable woman.
When I think back of memories of her, it's always at her home. Some years ago, she moved to a posh assisted living place in my home town. But I remember her best in her home surrounded by books and papers. There were quite a few books and papers (note the cook books in the left side of this background photo - there were quite a few of those as well). I remember the rows of peonies in the back yard. I remember that when she retired, she decided she could finally "grow her hair out". And she did. And that she didn't want us to put tomatoes in the refrigerator - everything had to be done a certain way (which she admitted about herself).
|Her kitchen circa 1994 - cluttered but clean|
I remember wonderful conversations.
When I introduced her to my twins, she had thoughtfully surmised a game with spools of thread and a jug. It takes a special kind of person to really think about the visitors you might have, what might interest them, and how you can entertain twin one year olds.
Sadly, she passed away last weekend after a brief illness. I hadn't been up to visit her in a long time. But I have wonderful memories of her and our conversations. I'm glad she's out of pain, and I knew this day might happen. She was an inspiration to me.
When I think about what kind of person I want to be in my 80s, I want to be like her. She had a laugh and a wry grin like no one else. This week I am filled with memories of her and her family.