Sunday, January 10, 2010

"She's Always a Lady to Me"

WARNING:  This one tends to ramble even more than usual!  Sorry!!

In yesterday's post I referenced "choicy chops of useless useful information".  So before someone starts asking about that phrase, I will provide an explanation gratis!  Believe it or not, that linquistic pearl did not originate with me. 

In actuality, I was introduce to the phrase by my BFF in high school, Flossie.  We lived in a pretty small town in Florida and like many small towns there was only a weekly local newspaper.  Even though it came out only once a week, there really wasn't all that much going on regularly to use up all the available space, so the paper ran some miscelleneous syndicated columns to fill in the blanks.  One such columns was titled, "Choicy Chops of Useful Information".  A small column filled with odd and little known facts about almost anything.  I can't recall who authored the column, but wasn't that a GREAT title?  "Choicy Chops of Useful Information"  I've never forgotten the title and have been known to...ahem.... borrow it from time to time (e.g., yesterday!) 

Now these weren't revelations or anything, just stuff to fill up space.  One fact I particularly remember for some bizarre reason is that fish swim upstream at 3 mph and the average man walks at 3 mph too; so if the man walked along side the fish, they'd get to the end at the same time.  Absolutely fascinating, right???  Well, I thought so when I was 15 (like I said we lived in a very small town!  We were easily entertained.) 

So that is the source of the phrase, but whenever I use it, it reminds me of one of the major pleasures of living in that particular small town.  I was fortunate enough to make a friend who seemed to me to be perfect in every way.  One of those down-to-the-soul friends that remain friends your whole life!!  Even though I rarely see her anymore, Flossie and I still keep in touch, albeit sporadically.  It never matters tho, when we talk we just sort of pick up where we left off.  We still connect and "know" each other as well as anyone ever knows someone else.  I not only liked her, I liked her mom and dad a lot.

I am willing to publicly declare here and now, that theirs was a family I always wanted to be a part of.  Dad was a highly respected physician in town, Mom was a member of every club in town, and always seemed elegant, classic, and sophisticated to me.  She was the very embodiment of the word "lady" in my teenaged eyes.  They even had a live-in housekeeper/cook/family retainer, Lolo! 

The three kids, Miz M., and Dr. M. would have "Interesting Discussions" every night at dinner. Flossie often told me what her family had talked about the night before, everything from politics to sports to philosphy to the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson! They often discussed the facts published in "Choicy Chops" that week.  Wow!  It all seemed so "New Yorker" magazine!!  I wanted them to adopt me.  (Sadly, they never offered.)

Flossie was closer to her Dad, but he intimidated the 15-year-old me a little.  On the other hand, I found Miz M. fascinating and I guess I had a little hero worship going on.  She dressed beautifully, her hair always coifed in an elegant French Twist.  She was funny, both intentionally and unintentionally!   Flossie was always telling me something about her family or her mom that added to my fondness and appreciation of this lady.  I have two favorite stories about Miz M.  I'd like to share.

At some point Flossie told me that her family used a particular word when talking about homosexual men and women.  (This was way back in the early '60s....political correctness was still a nightmare years in the future.)  Anyway, one evening at dinner the discussion turned to homosexuality.  As they were talking Miz M. was trying to recall the derisive word she had heard used to describe homosexuals.  Someone in the family prompted her with "just remember the underwear brand", at which point the light bulb went on and Miz M. called out triumphantly, "Looms!!"  Of course, the word became the family's own private joke.  Don't you just love the innocence of that??  LOOMS!  I love it!

The second story took place many years later.  Flossie let me know that Miz M. had suffered several debilitating strokes and although she was still living at home, she had 24 hour care.  She was unable to walk, her left side was badly impaired, some of her speech was a little difficult to understand.  Nevertheless, her mind was alert and sharp and she was still her gracious funny self. 

It happened that around that time I went back to my high school 25th reunion in the small town, and was invited to dinner with the family.  As coincidence would have it, that same night was Miz M's 75th birthday dinner.  When I discovered that, I tried to beg off, not wanting to intrude on a family occasion, but the family, including Miz M., wouldn't hear of it!  So I somewhat reluctantly agreed to go. 

Part of my hesitation was that my memory of Miz M. was so clear as a woman of substance and elegance.  Seeing her incapacitated would be difficult.  And in addition to that, good manners dictated that I bring her a gift.  Whatever in the world could I get her??  She was either in a wheelchair or her bedroom all day, she couldn't read very long anymore, her diet was restricted, she spent all of her days in her home and only got out for doctor visits.  None of the gifts I would normally consider would do.  They just weren't right.  After a lot of thought, I finally settled on a rather unorthodox present.

When I went to their home, to my delight, Miz M was every bit as charming and welcoming as she had always been.  She, of course, had many physical difficulties.  But conversation was light and lively and she was still a woman I respected and admired.

After we ate, the family presented their gifts one by one, till it was my turn.  I was so very nervous, suddenly afraid that my choice would offend her or someone else in the family.  It was too late, I had nothing else to give her, so I took a deep breath and gave her my gift.  The photo below is a geode, similar to the one I gave Miz M.  I set it in front of her with the back/exterior facing her.

I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was something along these lines.  I'm giving this to you because I think it is just like you.  The outside shows all the effects of time;  time, and gravity, and the elements have worn the outside so that at first glance its just a worn out old rock.  [Then I turned it around to face her.]  But the inside, oh, the inside still sparkles and glows and is just as beautiful as it always was!  That is just like you, you have a lot of problems with the difficulties in your arms and legs, but your inside still sparkles and glows and is just as wonderful and beautiful as it has always been.  So put this were you can see it and everytime you're feeling worn out and low, look at the geode and remember that the you on the inside, the real you, is just as alive and wonderful as ever and that is what is important.

Flossie cried.  I cried.  Miz M. laughed and cried and held my hand and told me she would look at it every day and remember me.  Flossie told me a long time after that she did indeed keep it in sight almost to the end.

Sometimes I am absolutely astounded when I get something exactly right.  But in this case especially, I am so, so glad.

Well, although Flossie still lives in the same small town, Dr. and Miz M. are both gone now, I moved away when I was 16, the small town isn't quite as small, but its still under 10,000 people if you restrict it to the city proper, and the small town newspaper was bought up years ago by a daily paper that serves the whole region.   Nevertheless, when someone asks where I'm from, I always say Chicago, but inside, I think about that little town that is still home to me.  And I remember my friend, Miz M.


  1. Beautiful family...

    Beautiful gift...

    Beautiful blog post!

  2. Great story! And I love the fact that you have a friend named "Flossie"!

  3. Love this story telling, Mellodee!

    When I first came upon your blog... I saw the picture of you and the Big Guy on the side... and I thought to myself... "This is someone I would love to sit and just listen to and hope that she would regale me with tales of her girlhood, life lessons, and funny stories."

    I think my assumption was right!

    I've got a little something for you on my blog on Monday...

  4. What a lovely thing to say! I'm truly touched. I'm glad that my vignettes are coming across well. Maybe even better than I ever hoped.

    I'm thrilled to have you among my cyber-friends!!

  5. Sandi....It's a great name, isn't it? Unfortunately, that's not the name she was born with! As a matter of fact, no one else in the entire world calls her "Flossie" but me! I have a special name for her because back in the day when we first became friends, we realized that we had so many things in common, we liked many of the same thing, and we frequently finished each other's sentences. One of us, don't remember which one, said we might as well be the Bobbsey Twins!! (Remember them??) That grew into me calling her Flossie (the name of the younger girl twin). The younger Bobbsey boy twin was named Freddie, Floss tried that for a while, but it never stuck! (Besides I already had a nickname, Windy.) But Flossie did stick and I've been calling her that for the last 48 years!!!! And to her I'm still Windy.

  6. What a wise and wonderful gift you gave her, and what wise and wonderful stories you tell. laurie


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