Monday, March 22, 2010

Memories Of A Close Friend

      We lost a long time friend last July, a friend we have known for over 40 years. Claudia was a wife, artisan, chef and would-be mother to the world.
      All the time that Barbara was in the OR, Claudia was in the waiting room with me. Barbara looked so little and helpless when she came out; Claudia took one look at my face and whispered, “Don’t worry, she’ll look fine tomorrow.” And she did. In the meantime Claudia took me home and fed me dinner.
      Because of her ability to organize a kitchen, she was the “go to” person at church dinners, socials, etc., although she preferred intimate dinner parties of six to eight people. I can’t even estimate the number of such parties we attended at her home.
      Her Coquilles St. Jacques, if not to die for, was at least to kill for. After I tasted hers, there was no other that was fit to eat, at least for me.
      But then, that was true of almost anything she cooked. For our first such affair at her house, she made fish. She didn’t know that I never cared for fish, but that meal made a believer out of me.
      When our Kiwanis Club disbanded, we had an eight-burner, double-oven stove in our clubhouse. Claudia remodeled her kitchen so that she could fit that stove into it.
      When Barbara and I had our accounting business, we had a client that always gave us a fresh turkey for Christmas. Since there were only the two of us, I offered the turkey to Claudia if she would invite us for dinner when she roasted it.
      The first time we dropped the turkey off at her house, we got to drinking a little wine. After a few toasts, we began calling friends in the area. We would dial their number, and when they answered we sang, “We wish you a merry Christmas … … and a Happy New Year,” then hang up the phone. Before long people would be calling around to find out where the party was. When they called us, we again sang the song, and again we immediately hung up.
      Soon people began arriving with little goodies of their own to share. Before we knew it, 15 or 20 people showed up. Claudia never missed a beat – she went to her pantry and pulled out all sorts of appetizers. There was never a shortage of food at her house.
      The turkey festival, as we called it, was repeated for several years, but when people started getting together ahead of time and assigning dishes – you bring the potato salad, I’ll bring the cole slaw, etc. – it lost its spontaneity, and the thing just died.
      She excelled at any art or craft she tried. One of her passions was her angel collection: glass, ceramic, cloth, fiber, anything at all that could be made into an angel went into her collection.
      She was dedicated to her church, and whenever a committee post was open, or a job needed to be done, she was ready. She amassed a large selection of religious works, and she didn’t just read about her religion – she lived it.
      She won the first round with cancer several years ago, but the big C came back with a knockout punch last July. If there is an afterlife, I know she is busy mothering everyone. And she is probably reorganizing the kitchen.

To read excerpts from “The Spirit Runs Through It,” click here.

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