A Friendship Tale of Love and Work
On the shelf above the desk in my Tucson studio stands a little pale blue framed square picture of Pooh and Piglet walking side by side. The writing on the frame reads:
“We’ll be Friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet. “Even longer,” Pooh answered.
I received this little picture from my friend Nancy Benoit quite a few years ago while I still lived in Massachusetts.
‘Forever’ means in perpetuity, an eternity. In a relationship of two persons it is a promise to stay in that relationship as long as one lives. When one person dies, the relationship in the real world ends for that person. The forever and “even longer” has to be carried by the one who is still alive.
On Sunday, September 26, just two days after my return from Cape Cod to Tucson, a phone call from Ray, Nancy’s husband, had the sound of tolling bells. And indeed Nancy Louise Benoit died at her Auburn (Massachusetts) home that morning. Knowing about Nancy’s tragic health issues and her struggles with them for quite a long time, I was not surprised by such sad news. I should have been ready for it, but I was not! I guess one never is….
Nancy and I met on Cape Cod as two young mothers – one baby each – about a year after my arrival in this country. We met when I responded to her ad in a local paper. She was giving away a bicycle and I needed one. That day I became the owner of a terrific, fat-tired, one-speed bike. Later I learned that the bike was of importance to her and that is why she did not want to sell it, but “to give it to the right person.”
We “clicked” that day as some people do when they feel some form of kinship. We lived nearby, were ecstatic about our babies while at the same time a bit overwhelmed by having them. Since neither of us worked professionally at that time, we could arrange our “tea times” relatively easily. On such days we would have a good talk, exchange recipes, and share our notes about children while they played together in the back yard. The seed of our friendship germinated and became a little seedling that year.
Very dynamic times arrived for both families. The Benoits moved out of the Cape to Auburn (about 90 miles away). I went back to work in science. Later both of us became mothers again. We were busy with building our homes. Still, we kept in touch, but saw each other rarely. So the seedling of our friendship was growing very slowly. The difficult time of my divorce and single motherhood enlivened its growth greatly. Nancy stood strongly behind me and we visited each other more often again. The seedling became a larger and stronger plant.
Most relationships have some stormy times and so did ours. Actually, we almost killed that plant of friendship, but the plant was smart and went dormant for a long eight years. When it was awakened again, I was an established writer on the Cape and getting ready to enter the world of books. Nancy was writing for and editing a local paper in her corner of Massachusetts. When I decided to publish the book Son of Mashpee, I needed an editor and an excellent one. So I proposed that assignment to Nancy. She accepted and from that time our friendship plant grew like crazy – in height, in width, and in depth. It grew through our hard work together and through long, intimate, middle-of-the-night conversations. We found great allies in telephones and computers. The distance between Falmouth and Auburn suddenly shrank. We met often – for working in person, for the celebrations of our finished projects, and just for fun. Those were the best and the happiest times of our friendship!
|Nancy and Ray Benoit at the door of Alicja’s studio guarded well by Mr. Einstein|
My moving to Tucson did not change the dynamics of our work relationship or the personal one. We learned to deal with the huge distance between Massachusetts and Arizona. I was also spending my summers on the Cape and we could see each other once in a while. But the clouds of Nancy’s unkind fate were coming our way. Still, we threw ourselves into a project of putting together my book of essays. It took longer than we expected with major interruptions by my emergency travels to Poland. As a result we ran that final stage of the project depleted of energy – I by my mother’s death and Nancy by her own health issues. In spite of it all, and thanks to our stubbornness (both of us being Taurus), we finished that race on time and with kudos for the book. Looking at the World Twice would never have seen daylight without Nancy’s perseverance and dedication.
You can see why my most vivid memories of Nancy will be always connected to our work on editing and polishing the words endlessly. And there is some humor in that as well. The process of book editing was long and complex. It went as follows. The file for Nancy’s editing was labeled by me as READY. Then after her work on it I would receive it back as FINAL, but it was not. A discussion of various details was ahead for us. After that the file would be labeled as ALMOST DONE and I knew that more discussions, especially about placing commas, would follow. Then, after receiving the file marked as DONE, you might think that it would be ready for publishing. Wrong! There was always something more Nancy found in need of correction. Only a file marked by her as DONE DONE could face the world! I truly loved that attention to detail in her work. Now, after Nancy’s departure, I have to carry the flag of DONE DONE excellence – all by myself.
|Nancy and Alicja at work|
“We’ll be Friends forever, won’t we?”
“Yes, even longer.”
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