(The White House is not in the White Village!)
I almost forgot that it was Women’s History Month! While my mom is hugely influential in my life, I have also been influenced by a lot of women, usually older or at least more experienced in the ways of the world. Some are still in my life while others just passed through it for a little while. I’ve learned a lot from these women who have been generous with their advice, wisdom, and good humor. Since the Hallmark store was all out of Women’s History Month cards, I’m dedicating this post to all those influential women, especially one who lived in the White House.
One day when I was a sophomore in high school, I bee-bopped into the cafeteria for my free period and my friend introduced me to a new girl, B., who was in her homeroom (they were both Ws) and who shared our same free period. I made some sort of greeting and she said, “We’re in Geometry together.” My powers of observation weren’t very strong back then! We sat down, I dug out a Hershey bar that I’m pretty sure I didn’t share, and the rest, as they say is, history. A friendship began at that table that day. The other girl? She's somewhere on Facebook.
I don’t know how or why I ended up at her house on a random Friday or Saturday night. I think I had just gotten my license and my friend, the Villager, and I were driving around the Village and we decided to see if B. was around. This was back when teenagers didn’t have cell phones because they were just things your parents had for emergencies. Or they just had a car phone that you couldn’t figure out how to use. So, anyway, Villager and I knocked and B.’s mom opened her door and her home to us. B. wasn’t home, she was at a basketball game or something but her mom invited us to stay. So we did and we ended up talking to her for what seemed like hours. Throughout our high-school years, this was a common occurrence…I’d go pick up B. or we’d come back from a movie or something, we’d hang out, and we’d spend time talking to her mom (and her dad too!) about all sorts of things.
She has a first name of course, but to me she was, and always will be, just Mrs. White. She is the matriarch of a loud, feisty Irish family. There was B., my first White friend; B.’s older sister C., whom I unfairly labeled a bully just ‘cause she looked tough; their younger sister R., whom I spotted in the cafeteria one day and just knew she was B.’s sister because they DO look alike; and their older brother G (or J…I don’t know how to spell his name!), whom I’ve only met twice in all these years but who is responsible for me seeing honest-to-goodness, on campus College Life, including beer pong, a Frat party, and the classic question to one of his buddies, “You didn’t fornicate on her [my] sleeping bag, did you?!” (NOTE – I was NOT in the sleeping bag at the time! And I had to look up the word fornicate when I got home); and there was Mr. White, who was a UPS man…which this daughter of a mailman managed to get past! They were just really good people who would give you their shirts off their back and more if they had it.
Mrs. White is the epitome of kindness. Her kindnesses towards me included little things and big ones too. I used to be terrified of driving on highways. One night I had to drive to a movie theater that would’ve required taking a road that I perceived to be a highway (now I laugh when I remember that I used to be afraid of Route 309!) I was really nervous and scared. Mrs. White told me which back-roads to take so I didn’t have to get near the “highway.” It was a small gesture but one that I appreciated…she didn’t make me feel bad because I was scared and she, like my own mom, didn’t force me to do something that I wasn’t quite ready to do (okay, so I wouldn’t be ready for another 10 years but hey, getting on the highway takes time!) I guess it’s a mom thing. When she wasn’t giving me directions, she was giving me Kennedy stuff. She knew I loved the Kennedys and she gave me things that she had from her younger days that was Kennedy-related. (White kids, I promise you, I didn’t steal your inheritance!)
Mrs. White is also a woman of tremendous strength, grace, and faith. I was and I am still amazed at her strength and grace during her ongoing battles with cancer and other health issues. She was/is a devout Catholic whose faith, I believe, has sustained her through some pretty tough times. I always saw her as a rock…strong, steady, and supportive of anyone who happened into her life, even on a random Friday night.
I have fleeting contact with B. these days and I haven’t seen Mrs. White in years. But I think of her often and I still send her and Mr. White a Christmas card every year. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to see Mrs. White again but if I don’t, I just want to thank her for all she did, all she was, and all she is. (And thanks for all that Kennedy loot too!)