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My Sister the Red-Head on her Retirement Day

I have a dear friend; Betty Baker is her name.

My red-headed adopted sister, mere days older than me came from a totally different part of the country.  She and I do not share family bloodlines or parents however she has become my sister through a bond of strong friendship, work ethic and respect.  Her beautiful red hair and blue eyes would certainly make her stand out in my own dark eyed and dark haired traits; (well, it USED to be dark anyway….) but she could certainly stand in for a member of my own clan regardless of the coloring.

I met Betty fifteen years ago when hired by the Clerk of Court and over the years she and I have developed a close friendship which I treasure deeply.  In our talks over the years, our background though wildly different in many aspects, is strangely similar in many ways as well.  She is the youngest of a large family of siblings whereas I am the oldest of four.  Her childhood was within the same era as mine and we both remember fondly certain times, music, movies, toys and school days. We can freely reminisce with each other and it brings lots of wonderful memories to both of us.

She had brothers—I did not.  I had very close cousins who could be considered brothers over the years but that is where the similarity stops for us.  My ‘brothers’ went home eventually—hers remained underfoot…

She was a very hard working young girl; she and husband Paul married young and together produced their own clan which presently includes many children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren as well.  They raised their family in northern states but later in life came to our neck of the woods, North Central Florida, the Sunshine State.  (You can say what you want about the South but few retire and move north…)

I’m sure their introduction into our southern culture was somewhat of a shock as down here we do things a little differently at times with regards to mannerisms, cooking and most definitely our speech and colloquialisms.  I’m sure both Betty and Paul at times were left wondering what in the world we ‘Florida Crackers’ were speaking of but eventually they fell into rhythm within our world.  For sure the weather was a kicker for both of them as they learned of the humidity, the heat and the bugs prevalent here in the South.  I can only apologize for the discomfort; unfortunately I can do nothing to change the situation…Of course, from bits and scraps of joy over the years she HAS mentioned she doesn’t really miss the daily trudge in the white stuff so many ‘Snow Birds’ complain of.  No more shoveling sidewalks and driveways for her!

Our daily talks have always been pleasant and she and I have come to an understanding that only a familial connection (blood or not) can bring.  I feel very comfortable with her and she seems comfortable with me as well.  We have shared much over the years…much like two little whispering girls, one dark-eyed and tall, the other red-headed,  blue-eyed and short;  a vision of best friends but also ‘sisters’ all at the same time.

We have experienced much together here in our respective positions and have used each other at times to commiserate our misery or rejoice in our respective accomplishments as well.  I have certainly treasured that relationship and camaraderie.

She and I share a joy in all things sentimental; she treasures possessions left from her ancestors and I do the same.  My recent writing and publishing accomplishments have been shared and she has been a wonderful supporter.  I have felt totally open to sharing my life with her and she has openly shared with me.

Recently my red-headed sister made a monumental decision while she was out on surgical leave.  She decided to retire early from her career and I am presently missing her presence and her smile immensely.  A simple wave to each other in daily passing and the occasional sharing of funny faces, just like may have happened in our respective youths, are sorely missed.

Please forgive a little side-trip at this time in my story but I must take just a moment to share a tidbit of information in my own background which will presently become clear in my story.  Please come along for the ride… 

My father lost my paternal Grandmother Ola Dell, for whom I was named, when he was only six years old.  Her death was directly attributed to complications during childbirth with my father’s youngest sister Nita.  They were children of the Great Depression and their family was as a southern colloquialism, dirt poor their entire childhoods.

There are only three items left after her death that were personally owned by my Grandmother Ola Dell and they are as special to me today as if they were silver and gold.

We own one portrait of her within the original frame circa 1926, a lock of her hair and one small beautifully etched light green glass butter dish.  The portrait has hung in my father’s home as far back as I can remember and will remain until the day my Mother leaves this earth.  At that time, it will grace MY walls until I no longer breathe.  I hope that my children will continue the honor after I’m gone.

I have treasured the butter dish in particular my entire life and imagined witnessing Ola Dell using it as a treasured household item.  Every woman throughout our history has a special treasure which they cherish; this dish is something which my father related she DID treasure.

I am now in my mid-??’s and honored to say my mother has promised to leave that butter dish to me, Ola Dell’s namesake.  It is only one piece, no lid nor serving tray but it is treasured nonetheless and a beautiful little piece.

As news came of Betty’s unexpected departure from employment within the Clerk’s Office, I volunteered my services to deliver personal desk items to her home since she was still recuperating from recent hand surgery.  I knew she had not been released from her physician as of yet and felt it would be easier for me to deliver it than it was for Betty and Paul to drive the thirty miles to retrieve it.

Last Saturday I was pleased to be able to drive her belongings to her home and ‘sit a spell’ with my red-headed sister once again.

Upon my arrival, both Betty and Paul as usual were gracious hosts and I enjoyed a comfortable visit with them.  During our conversation, however, Betty abruptly excused herself and went to the rear of her home to retrieve something of importance.  When she came back into the living room she had the most beautiful light green glass three piece ‘set’ in her hand and asked if I would take it.

My initial reaction was of complete and utter shock, pleasantly surprised that she would so generously offer this beautiful treasure to me but even more so when I realized it was the ‘missing’ top, bottom and tray to my own treasured butter set which has given me a lifetime of dreams of my own Grandmother!  

My eyes began to sting and I could not contain the tears as my memory immediately went back to our own treasured dish presently residing in my mother’s home!  In my mind’s eye, the dish I had gingerly touched but never held in my own child’s hand then later in life dusted, cleaned and arranged in my mother’s ‘what-not-shelf’ over the years now had the matching top and bottom plate AND the tray, complements of my own red-headed sister and treasured friend!

I could not believe my good fortune!  She related it had belonged to a great aunt and was of a very old age.  In studying the piece it most assuredly came from the same early 1900-1920s era as my Grandmother Ola Dell’s treasure.  I have always dreamed Ola Dell’s set may have been a favorite wedding gift from someone special but cannot attribute any historical proof of such.  The markings and etchings appear to be if not exact, a very similar design at best and will match beautifully as a complete set.

I honestly cannot remember if I ever related my fascination with my Grandmother’s treasure to Betty and if I did, her memory has remained sharp as she desired to share her lovely antique with me.  If I had never shared with her however, I have to believe our close relationship these last fifteen years have made us even more ‘in tune’ with each other than I imagined!

Even though I never met Grandmother Ola Dell, my family stories and my imaginings of her time in our family and on earth are of great comfort and importance to me.

Because of her kindness and generosity in her wonderful gift, that great comfort will likewise always be associated and treasured with my own dear friend Betty, my red-headed sister forever…

Happy I can now relate that my now four piece light green glass ‘set’ (butter dish with two bottoms and a tray) will reside within my own ‘what-not-shelf’ (My mother has now decided to relinquish hers to me early) and will remain a memory of my red-headed sister, her kindness and sharing of our wonderful times together and my sweet Grandmother as well.

On this celebration of Betty’s retirement day, December 18, 2014, I salute our friendship, thank her for the memories and my special gift and vow to keep in touch!

Happy Retirement Ms. Betty and it’s sure been a pleasure and an honor to know ya!!!

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