There is a woman I know named Winnie who owns an antique shop. She’s just a wee thing but she’s got a big personality, and may or may not have been born into Chinese royalty.
Occasionally she lets slip something that happened in her youth, (like being chauffeured or carried) but she breezes over those details and always returns to things that matter: My dog, her dog, family, and Peking duck. Recently she lost her dear friend Patricia, a quiet and elegant lady who occasionally worked in the store. Earlier this year Patricia was diagnosed with cancer, and went home to her family, and died.
During this year, Winnie stayed close to Patricia’s side. She took her to doctor’s appointments and brought her food. They lived just a few doors apart and spent a lot of time together. Winnie did everything a thoughtful person would do to make sure a beloved friend as comfortable and safe.
But as much as they were similar, they were also quite different. Winnie has the energy of a teenager and loves to chat, then fling herself into your arms for a hug. Patricia was more of a dignified observer, but enjoyed a good joke. Winnie liked to buy fun stylish clothes, and go out for dinner. Patricia, apparently, was more frugal - though Winnie kept trying to shake her up.
Last time I was in Winnie’s shop she was up a ladder, acting nothing like the grandmother she is. She came sliding down like a fireman, landing squarely at my feet. Along with the small woman came a flash of light. ‘What the heck?’ I said, squinting my eyes. ‘Are you wearing diamonds?’
Winnie was accessorized like Mr T. She grinned and held up her hand. On her middle finger was a diamond rind that was the size of a chiclet. I have one almost like it, only mine was $7.00 at Old Navy, and hers was real. ‘Where the heck did that come from?’ I said.
Winnie told me that after Patricia went home, she went into her friend’s safety deposit box, ostensibly to get some documents and the ‘good’ necklace. What she found instead was a mother lode of jewels. Gold bracelets, emerald earrings, money, and diamond rings. There was a ton of it.
Winnie said her first reaction was shock. She had no idea that Patricia had such valuable items. Then she wondered why Patricia had saved so carefully right into her 70’s. She had no kids, and nobody depending on her. She could have been having a ball. Eating, traveling, and buying cute sweater sets from J – Crew.
‘So that’s Patricia’s ring?’ I asked.
‘No?’ laughed Winnie. ‘It’s mine!’
She told me that when she was getting dressed that morning she noticed her own box of jewels – the ones that are too expensive to wear. The massive gem she had on her tiny finger was a gift from her husband and she only wore it at home. But that day she thought, ‘What am I waiting for?'
A good lesson I thought. That night I went home for some roast chicken with the wingman. We wanted a glass of wine, and I open the fridge and reached for some plonk. Then I heard Winnie’s voice. ‘Don’t be a Patricia,’ it said, ‘It makes no sense to wait.’
So I put back the everyday wine, and opened something sparkling instead.