Deb, Liz, her mother Kathy, and I went to historic/shopping district of St. Charles, MO for the weekend. We shopped all day Saturday. In each store, I looked for a peacock blue pashmina. (I did not mention my mission or the reason for it.)
Eventually, we went back to our hotel to change for dinner. When everyone was ready, Liz and Kathy came to the room Deb and I were sharing and mysteriously spread six scarves on the bed.
"Everyone needs to pick a scarf," Kathy said. "At dinner, you can demonstrate a new way to wear the scarf or make up a story about where the scarf has been. The scarf is yours to keep."
You already know, don't you?
The sixth scarf was the PRECISE peacock blue pashmina I'd been looking for all day.
Ordinarily, I would wait until others made their choices. Ordinarily, I would say I liked all scarves. Ordinarily, I would choose what others didn't seem to want.
These circumstances were not ordinary. I snatched the peacock blue pashmina before anyone had a chance to say a word.
"This one has to be mine," I said. "I'll share the scarf, but I have to tell its story."
The others seemed a little taken back but graciously picked from the other scarves, and we went off to dinner.
After the server had taken our wine orders, Kathy asked why I had to tell the story of that particular scarf. I started by explaining that I'd been looking for a peacock blue pashmina all day.
Three years ago, Barbara's doctors discovered a recurrence of illness that eventually took her life, and they were blunt about the grim prognosis. Not surprisingly, Barb swung from peaceful to frightened and back for weeks. One fall day, she called me, sobbing. We hadn't seen the sun for days, she missed her friends and her life in Iowa, she was struggling with the book she was writing. I told her to hang on, I'd be right there.
On the way over, I stopped and bought a peacock blue pashmina and peacock blue velvet gloves and the same scarf and gloves in green. Then I called and told Barb to put on a black turtleneck, black pants, and short black boots. When she came to the door, I handed her the scarves and gloves and told her to bring her biggest, darkest sunglasses. Without a word, she followed me to my car.
Barb recognized where we were going long before we arrived. She loved the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and we often went there to lift her spirits. We draped our scarves around our necks, pulled on our gloves, donned our sunglasses, and did our best beatnik imitations throughout the museum.
"That Thomas Hart Benton was a real cool cat," Barb said. I raised both hands and snapped my fingers as much as possible wearing velvet gloves. We laughed so hard we had to sit down on nearby benches.
By the time we left an hour or so later, the color had returned to Barb's world. Over the years, we often wore our scarves and gloves on outings.
When it turned cold a couple weeks ago, I looked for my green scarf and gloves. The gloves were right where they belonged but the scarf has not turned up. I wanted to replace it with a peacock blue scarf in Barb's honor and have looked several times with no luck until Kathy laid the exact duplicate on my bed in the Boone's Lick Inn.
When I finished telling the story, Liz looked puzzled—she did not know the term "beatnik." Deb started trying to explain, and Kathy took up the tale.
"Beatniks write poetry," Kathy said. She composed her face and threw her hands into the air. "Fire," she whispered in a tone heavy with portent.
"Burn." Her hands went to her shoulders.
"Death." She put her hands to her forehead and dropped her head to the table.
Debbie and I clicked our fingers madly.
We laughed so hard and so long we offered to buy wine or dessert for the tables around us to make up for disturbing their dinners. We laughed so hard we cried off all our mascara and eye liner. We laughed so hard Debbie had an asthma attack.
We laughed so hard I felt Barb's spirit beside me.