I’m looking outside my office window, willing the lilacs to burst into their signature colour and fragrance. It would be a Brenda Geisler birthday miracle. She was pretty powerful and could bend time and space, so I half-expect the buds to transform before my eyes. But stubborn and tired from a viciously bitter winter here, the flowers are two weeks from blooming. So I turn my thoughts to her other favourite things. Shared favourite things. And it’s a long and luscious list.
Crisp white linens. Apples and cheddar. Holt Renfrew credit cards. Belly laughs. Trooper songs. Tennis played on clay courts. Popcorn. The Sound of Music. Meaningful conversations. Dreaming + scheming. A cleansing cry. Silk. Simple design warmed up with riotous colour. Keeping the peace. Cherries jubilee. Picnics. Oysters. Gardening. Harry Belafonte. Learning.
One of my most prized possessions is an 11-page letter she wrote me when I was 17 and took a trip to California with my best friend. She, my Dad and sister were leaving for a Maine junket before I returned so we were to be apart for up to three weeks. I am missing pages 1 and 9. It is one-part instructive (be sure to use the feta in the fridge and enjoy the tomatoes off of the vine before the squirrels do), one-part diary, (we sold that beater of a car, your sister’s boyfriend broke his ankle “He is unlucky. How will they go on dates?”), and one-part poetry (“Please don’t be afraid of the sounds that this house makes. It’s a big, old rambling house that creaks and groans with the weight of its age and the lives of the people who have been blessed to live here.") All parts wholly, purely love.
Yes, she had a soft voice, sweet handwriting and strong opinions. She would have been…no wait. I can’t tell you her age. She wouldn’t have liked it.
During her Shōgun phase, we were required to eat everything with chopsticks. Even stew. She wrote letters to the editor. Frequently. M*A*S*H episodes directed by Alan Alda were overly indulgent. Thank you cards were a must…but not birthday cards. The national anthem wasn’t ever to be trifled with. And she made phenomenal trifle…no apologies for the Cool Whip.
When you clink glasses, you must look the other person in the eye. Or else it doesn’t count. When you pray, you must pray with full heart. Or else it doesn’t count. When you sing, you must sing from your soul. Or else it doesn’t count. When you hug, your hearts must touch. Or else it doesn’t count.
She could never quite pronounce Ellen Degeneres, mille feuilles, nor arugula, and she never did make it to India, but she did leave behind a legacy of love and wisdom.
So today, another request: please clink, pray, sing and hug like it counts. And above all, as ever...