Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Her Smile

I got the news today that my Mom’s best friend, a dear friend of our family, passed away. We knew she was ill and truthfully, the news did not take me by surprise, but I still found myself in tears. It’d been only two months back when I’d received Pauline’s Christmas card with her sweet note of appreciation tucked inside, commenting upon the update I’d sent her about our family. Receiving her card each year always made me smile.

When I was a child, my Mom and I would visit her home often. I loved playing with her youngest daughter and son who truly were my first friends. I’d often go home with a box of hand-me-down clothes. I remember opening that box and going through the dresses, pants, and tops with my Mom. I loved getting those clothes; I considered myself so lucky. I’d always pick my favorite dress and I’d wear that outfit on school picture day each fall.

My favorite memory of Pauline however is a bit of a puzzle to me. Although I could be quite shy as a child, when I switched elementary schools in the fourth grade and began attending one within sight of her home, I occasionally walked over to her “pink house” to visit her after school. I have no memory of why I did this. Why didn’t I take the bus home? What brought me to be so bold as to walk to Pauline’s house uninvited all those times? I really do not remember. But I do remember her sweet greeting when she’d see me knocking at her back door. She’d welcome me inside, give me a warm hug, and we’d sit down. Often she’d serve me a cookie and milk or some other snack. Although I do not recall the exact conversations, I remember talking to her quite easily and having her smile as she listened to me. I say it again; what a beautiful smile she had.

When my family would go back to our hometown to visit my Mom and Dad, we’d always see Pauline at church. She’d be quick to brighten and wave to us and I remember thinking how pretty a woman she was, even into her eighties. Of course the most beautiful part of her was her easy smile. Her twinkling eyes and her little chuckle whenever we took a few moments to talk with her were amazing too. She had lost her husband back in 1978 when I was just 10 years old. I remember Wally dancing with me at a wedding. He made me feel so very special. I am sure Pauline and Wally found each other quickly after her death this week. I wish I’d been there to see that reunion.

Pauline and my Mom were best friends for close to 60 years. Between the two of them, they raised 12 children and together they became the most amazing grandmothers. Her dedication to her grandson Matthew was especially inspiring. In earlier years our families spent days on the lake together but this was before I came along. My older siblings have wonderful memories of the times they shared growing up with one another. My memories made in later years are no less special. But of all the precious memories I have of Pauline, what I will miss the most is hearing my Mom laugh so very hard as she spoke with her best friend on the telephone. I was never privy to those conversations but it is clear to me that they were the closest of girlfriends.

My Mom and the rest of our family were so very blessed to have her in our lives all these years. It’s more clear to me now. The reason I found myself at Pauline’s “pink house” back in 4th and 5th grades had to be that I wanted a taste of what my Mom had. I wanted the comfort and the beauty of her friendship, if only for a short time. It truly must be as simple as that.

Although I have no desire to wish away the years of my life yet to be lived, I am beginning to envision what an amazing group of people I have to look forward to seeing again when it’s my time to go. I have big plans for the hereafter. For example, I’m going to be sure to find Wally and ask him for another dance. And when I see Pauline again, I am going to take her hands in my own and sincerely thank her for everything--the cookies and milk, the hand-me-downs, her warm hug at the door of her “pink house”, and her other acts of kindness and friendship. God bless you Pauline.

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