I write this blog not only to celebrate Valentines’ Day, but also to proclaim publicly my great admiration of an old friend.
If you are inclined to wince at my mention of matters personal, permit me to remind you that you are not a captive audience.
Accordingly, I will reminisce. This is the first time I have the opportunity to write about her without the risk that she will immediately contradict me, change the subject of my discourse in midsentence, observe that the table on which I am painting is an irreplaceable antique, hide the scotch, or turn off the light.
I am talking about Julia. Julia died last year.
Julia was the mother of Angela, Andrew, and Charles and surrogate mom to Mona and me (for over fifty years). She was a pillar of reliability not only to her family but also to her community. Her authority was absolute, except when her sense of humor was provoked which was easily touched off and we managed to navigate around her sense of order and rectitude by simply making her laugh.
I know of only one occasion when this failed. Her late husband, the formidable Christopher Charles, was a taciturn man, particularly respecting his business affairs, concerning which his family notoriously knew nothing. On one occasion, many years ago, Julia came home bursting with entrepreneurial pride. She launched at lunchtime into an extended account of her prowess in her capacity as chairman of the local ladies society in shepherding the society away from, let us call it the Hotel X, where for years it had had its headquarters at considerable profit to the Hotel X, on over to, let us call it the Hotel Y. Julia overflowed with joy at how she finally had won the fight, and had just that morning signed a ten-year lease on behalf of the ladies club. Christopher Charles had been eating wordlessly throughout the extended account. At this point, he spoke up. “You know something, dearest? You own the Hotel X.”
It has been reported, that she did not speak to him for a months, and did so then only after forcing him to sell the hotel, preferably at a loss.
Julia was a welfare institution of her own. Providing to her family and those she chose as her friends, an inexhaustible supply of affection, guidance, encouragement, loyalty, shelter, and rhubarb pie. I know that those who knew her personally will not take offense at my proposing a toast to her, gratefully and affectionately, on this Valentine’s Day weekend.