My, oh MY, how the days do whirl past my head like fireflies on a summer night. Days and days have whizzed by without me finding time to write here. And so it comes to pass that I am finally writing a post I meant to write a month ago...ah, as Ms. Moon would say, la. Here are the Easter lilies, blooming well past their expected date, but perfuming the garden, nonetheless. Like them, I thank you for not giving up on me.
Several remarkable women in my circle celebrate birthdays in April, and in their honor I want to remember two other very special women who lived in St. Augustine when I was too young, perhaps, to fully appreciate them. Both of them were known to me by the now almost-extinct prefix of Mrs. They were Mrs. Weiderman and Mrs. Allemano, and though as different as chalk and cheese, they also shared a grace in aging.
Mrs. Weiderman was a frequent visitor at the Booksmith, the marvelous independent bookstore of revered memory where I worked. She was a tall woman, somewhat spare of build, somewhat reserved in manner. By the time I knew her, she must have been in her 60s, but it was hard to tell, really. She was active and self-reliant and might have been a decade younger or older. She had discerning taste and was always reading something interesting. And she lived on St. Andrews Court, a tiny street in downtown St. Augustine that has always welcomed the artistic and eclectic. This was about as much as I knew about her. But I wasn't her only connection to our very young household: she was also a customer at the mechanical shop where my dear old person worked in those years, long time past, my dears. By pure happenstance he mentioned her to me one day. She was an especially kind customer, he said. She'd made him a gift of a calendar from the 1940s that he treasured. I was surprised to hear him refer to her as "June", quite casually. I'm not sure I'd even known her first name. It was typical of him to develop a rapport with customers, because he was both generous with knowledge and unfailingly honest. Over the years he amassed an impressive following and I used to tease him about the mourning period that followed his move to a corporate environment. Even so, I was nearly astonished, and a bit awed, to hear him call this refined lady "June". For me, she was a respected customer. But she was also capable of establishing unlikely friendships, a gift not given to everyone. This wild iris or lily or whatever it is, blooms in a boggy spot under our oak canopy, and has always reminded me of women like Mrs. Weiderman. It is hardy and determined. It's also inherently - and unselfconsciously - beautiful.
Mrs. Allemano was similar to Mrs. Weiderman in height and build, in her love of books and scholarship and her capacity for embracing the unexpected. Mrs. Allemano, however, had an air about her that was at once commanding of respect, and generous and calming. She was quite tall, with a crown of silvered hair, and I never saw her dressed with anything less than the most exacting care and the most perfectly chosen accessories. She had a timeless quality seated in her very spirit which was most easily visible in her sense of style. If her person had been made invisible so that only her dress and accessories were considered, it would have been impossible to guess at the age of their owner. This timelessness was a function of her formidable intellect, as well, but it would be years before I realized that she was honored in many circles for her erudition and spiritual wisdom, but this is a story for another night, my loves. Perhaps it is enough to say that she was imperious and regal, but probably didn't realize think of herself in those terms at all. She raised children who made their homes arond the world, in London and Paris and various points on the African continent. She was an insatiable reader, erudite and relentless in the pursuit of learning. On one memorable MadriGalz occasion when she had gathered her family from the corners of the earth, they came to the Cafe Alcazar for a holiday luncheon. Surrounded by her grown children and Mrs. Allemano, who was was "Irene" to many members of the circle to which I would one day belong, was another breathtakingly beautiful woman for whom age was an enrichment, and nothing less.
For those of you whose birthdays I missed in a blue and beautiful April, I wish you this great blessing. For Tracy and Jackie, for Rima, for Issis and Nirvana and especially for beloved Lizzie, may the blessing of years sit as lightly and gracefully with you as it did with these two unique, lovely women. May a new year enrich and deepen the beauty of each of you. Love to each of you from our house under the oak trees, the Spanish moss and the benediction of the golden hour.
I'm sorry it's so late, but happy, happy birthday to each of you.