It’s that time, the “should old acquaintance be forgot,” so I’ve decided to write about people who have impacted my life for one reason or another, and sometimes, I’m not quite sure why they have moved me.
• When I was a kid in New Orleans, we had this housekeeper named Yulee. She was as old as the ages and small, but strong. Her face was deeply creased and she had the blackest eyes I’d ever seen. Yulee was a voodooiene. When she talked, her voice was in an accent I’d never heard before, something from the deep swamps of Louisiana, low, gravelly and husky, deep and dark. For those of you who think this type of person doesn’t exist or is of days gone by, let me assure you: Yulee was very real and I still have dreams about her. And they are never good.
Yulee wore all of her clothes at once, I don’t know why and I never asked. She also waxed the hard wood floors with paint remover, which didn’t go over well with my father. I don’t know how long she was with us, but her mark was indelible.
• When I was 13, my mother and I went to an Easter service at a church in Hardy, Ark. I don’t remember what denomination it was, just that it was a beautiful church surrounded by a lot of woods. The preacher spoke of tomato aspic and how he’d always hated it growing up. And that his first year as a minister, someone brought some to a potluck, so he was kind and tried it. And well, he still didn’t like it. I don’t have any idea what the point was to his sermon. Seriously, I’m sure it was about something grand and meaningful, but this man was charismatic and happy and had me dying to some day try this mysterious tomato aspic.
• The little girl, Jane, who was a member of my father’s parish in New Orleans. She was a beautiful child, blond and sweet, and her parents were from South Africa. Jane was eight when she was diagnosed with cancer and she died the next year. I was about 15 and I always planned to name a daughter after her, which never happened, but she is engraved in my heart.
• The people I served when I was a waitress in Los Angeles. I waited on so many celebrities and most were lovely, but sometimes you’d meet someone who was so ugly to you it threw you for a loop. I learned from the kindness and learned from the ugliness. Life is too short to be rude to those you don’t know and it’s also too short to accept the ugliness. Accept the kindness because people mean it and deflect the ugly, because that’s about them, not you.
• At the same restaurant, there was a woman who would wear three pairs of glasses. She’d sit at the counter and change out while eating her bowl of soup. She was a regular and I enjoyed waiting on her. One day, only after a waiter said something about the crazy lady at the counter, did it occur to me that she perhaps had mental issues. I’d always thought she was doing improv or rehearsing for some play, because to me, besides the glasses, she seemed perfectly normal. And what is normal, anyway?
• Luke, an ex-boyfriend, who told me that since I only met 21 of his 22 criteria in a wife, he would no longer date me. What was that number 22, which kept him from popping the question? He gave me a number of pounds to lose and declared he would have no contact with me until I lost them. I really liked him. But I realized I like me more and well, he had never asked me how he fit into my criteria.
• The friend, who had grown up in a severely abusive home, started drinking when she was nine, and was in AA by the time she was 19. She was one of my best friends growing up, and remains so. I was her constant, a safe place, and I was moved when she called me as part of her program to apologize for any wrongs she had ever done me. It was moving and on my end, unnecessary, but a healing moment for both of us. Now, more than 20 years later, she remains alcohol and drug free, has been married for 17 years and is an accountant for a wealthy family conglomerate in Boston. She also left the Catholic Church and is now Jewish. Her memory is severely flawed due to the massive alcohol intake during formative years, so when she says she’s forgotten something from her childhood, I tell her not to worry, that I shall remember it for her.
I suppose my reflection has to do with our differences. Even here in our community, we are all so much alike, yet so different. Isn’t that a good thing? How boring would it be if you and I were cookie cutter molds of each other? We are each built to shine in our own way and like no other.
I guess I’ll finish with my favorite quote, which I don’t really know how it ties into what I’ve written, but I think someone it does. I hope you love it as much as I do.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson