I lost an old friend recently. We were an unlikely pair. I moved into an apartment in her farm house at 19, recently graduated from high school, newly married and ready to start college. She was 47, never married, a former egg farmer and an eccentric Yankee.
Barbara was a one-of-a kind woman. She was handier around machinery than most men, made frugality an art-form, was a tidy hoarder, hated change, had a great, if slightly odd, sense of humor, could eat more than a farm hand , had very definite ideas about things, and would try most anything once. She loved anything with a motor! I can still see her riding the neighbor's snow mobile- her 6 foot frame crammed into the seat, legs bent to her chin, hair flying and a look of absolute joy on her face.
She taught me so many things - how to make the best-ever creamed corn, how to identify spots to harvest fiddlehead ferns, how to enjoy an entire Cadbury chocolate bar on the drive home from work at midnight, how being kind looks, what it really means to turn the other cheek, and how to dust yourself off and move on.
I think I began my fascination with
old and shabby vintage things while I lived with her. We'd spend hours going through old family photos - she knew how everyone was related, down to the "second cousin, twice-removed". There were several outbuildings on the farm, full of stuff she knew would be useful someday. I never knew that people repaired metal pails until she unearthed several and was not amused at my suggestion to just throw them out and get new ones. This great window-turned-mirror was from one of her chicken coops. She did not understand why on earth I'd put it in my house! I love it, not only for the great arched shape, but because it reminds me of her.
What really made her special was her kindness, her sense of humor and her reluctance to ever say anything bad about anyone. She gave life to the word "humility" and lived to help others. She embraced me with all my faults, was a kind and loyal friend for decades, and I'll miss her.