Tribute to an Angel From Uganda

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My mind is so much with my faraway friend, Barb Mal, as she hits her milestone 50th birthday, and the first without her sweet, charming, mother who recently passed away, I remember (as I often do) with so much appreciation, respect, and love for how our bond began.

I was “shipped away” to Quaker boarding school in Nowheresville, Ohio, my last year of high school. Apparently my penchant for good times and bad grades had hit the ceiling for my parents (LOL) and off I went, kicking & screaming. Of course, in my teen angst I was determined to hate it there (which, fortunately, did not last long) and my first day there was sheer misery. Lonely and isolated, I was a stranger in a strange land, as I watched the many returning students hugging & laughing after a long summer apart in an era where email & texting had not yet been invented and long distance phone calls were a luxury due to the cost. Witnessing all of these joyous reunions only served to make me feel more alone and so I wandered down the brick path of the grounds to a swing set that was located away from the main building but still visible. I sat there silently swinging alone and crying, throwing myself a proper and fully self-indulgent pity party, drowning in loneliness, distress, and anger, when I saw out of the corner of my eye a lone girl walking down the path towards me. I was thinking to myself, “Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me. PLEASE don’t talk to me!” (LOL) as my pity party only had an invitation for one and that was ME. Still she walked closer until she got to the swing set and silently sat down next to me. I did not look up, as I was crying, embarressed, awkward, and dedicated to being anti-social so as not to like anything about the place. She sat and began swinging slowly next to me in silence as I continued to stare at the ground until, after a short time went by, she quietly said, “You know, it’s not so bad here.”. OMG – I literally am choked up writing this! It truly is the sweetest, most selfless, kind thing that I think anyone has ever done for me. It’s especially notable because Barb was a returning student and so easily could have chosen (as I’m sure I would have) to have focused her attention on those happy, post-summer, reunions but she went out of her way to comfort a sad & lonely stranger. I knew from that moment that she was a very special person. 32 years later, we are still bonded. My parents referred to her as their “bonus daughter”.
She is kind, strong, intelligent, cultured, and empowered. Not only do I love her, I respect her enormously. She is an incredible single parent of a wonderful daughter, Edisa, whose father she met as we were out for my bachelorette party and whose flirtation I unapologetically interrupted as I stole her back away for the night! LOL I was with her to go home from the hospital after she gave birth, this tiny, new, adorable, creature SCREAMING in the backseat of the car with us laughing hysterically in a state of shock & awe, exlaiming to one another, “WHAT DO WE DO NOW???”. She figured it out….like a champ.
I love you, Barb Mal, and look forward to spending your next milestone birthday TOGETHER!!!
We should all be so lucky as to have a friend like her. ❤

Summer of ’77 – Star Wars vs. The Rescuers

The year was 1977 and I was 8 years old when Star Wars was released.  Star Wars fans are unrivaled in their knowledge & passion only by Disney fans and those are the ones, perhaps only with the exception of me, that will recall that the Disney movie “The Rescuers” was in theaters at the same time during that disco era summer.

My parents packed me & my two sisters into our station wagon and headed to the theater with a plan of my mother taking me & my siblings to “The Rescuers” while my father went (Han) solo to “Star Wars”.  I was SO excited to see “The Rescuers” as I loved mice and going to the theater was a rare & special treat for us so you can imagine my dismay when we pulled up in front of the dual screen theater to discover a line that appeared to go on for MILES.  No, not for Star Wars but for MY movie, “The Rescuers”!  Star Wars had only been out for one month at that point and was still gaining steam, exposure and hype not available to the masses the way it is today in a pre-internet era.  It was quickly determined that the showing we were there for was already sold out and the line was for the *next* screening, resulting in the ultimate and dastardly decision for us to all go to Star Wars instead.  THE HORROR!  Truly, I’d been robbed!

Now…..imagine if you first saw Star Wars knowing absolutely *nothing* about it and not only did you NOT want to see it, you were MAD that you “had to”.  And so was my introduction to the uncontestably magical world where, instead of buffalo, wookiez & droids roam.

As with everyone, I had never seen anything like it and I was completely blown away.  It consumed thoughts and conversations and, at my age at the time, playtime and debates over who was cuter, Luke or Han Solo.  For the record, I’ve always been a Han Solo girl, apparently drawn to bad boys since I was old enough to like boys at all.  But I digress.  It was due to both my personal, and the public’s, obsession with Star Wars that my artistic self met my tiny entrepreneur self and I began cranking out hand drawings of Star Wars characters, R2-D2 being my specialty.  Once I had compiled an impressive portfolio I began going door to door in my neighborhood selling my masterpieces to those lucky enough to have the opportunity and wherewithal to make such a sound investment.  The market for eight year old pencil drawings of Star Wars characters was HOT!  Okay, well, shocking as it may seem, that wasn’t exactly the case but I do recall selling at least two, maybe three, of my drawings, obviously to kind hearted, encouraging souls who were probably also family friends.

Decades later I ran into Han Solo (aka: Harrison Ford) on South Beach, Miami.  Like, LITERALLY, ran into him – we roughly bumped shoulders walking down the sidewalk as we passed.  O….M….G!  That’s another story for another day but, I’ll tell you what, he was still one handsome devil!  While I can’t promise you’ll meet Han Solo or that you’ll make riches selling handmade art if you are a die-hard fan you can still travel to a galaxy not so far, far away and relive your own Star Wars memories.  Perhaps pass the lightsaber and introduce it all to a new generation, though may I recommend renting “The Rescuers” for them too.  😉