I’ve always wondered what went through her mind the night she met us. What churned in her brain as she smiled across the Manitowoc Pizza Hut table at two pubescent girls in braces who had entered a fit of age-inappropriate giggling and were now trying to hide under the table? Now what did I get myself into?
I concluded that my dad’s new girlfriend was cool from the git go. Maybe it was her little red Honda Civic with the New Mexico license plates and wooden bead seat covers. Maybe because I thought she was sort of hippy-ish, and clearly more interesting than the average bear walking around the small town where I grew up. She was a vegetarian, and that was definitely exciting.
But I know it was her smile. A ray of sunshine. You couldn’t not like her.
Then she won me over with her genuine interest in life. Her curiosity about people. Her intrigue with the odd. Her patience with and love for my dad. And us. The way she pointed out a speck of a highlight in the most mundane. The way she quickly shakes her fists and exclaims, “Eeeeee!”, when thrilled. The flash of spiky blonde and the swirl of colors that she wears. The way she remains classy when the rest of us don’t.
I knew she was cool, years later, when we stumbled through the Greek ruins of humble homes, chose a foundation to lie on and stared at the millions of stars because ample amounts of retsina and red wine severely hampered our astrological skills in reading the glow-in-the-dark constellation map. We relied on our blurry eyes to scan the skies for Greek gods and shooting stars who could fulfill our so very many wishes, spoken and unspoken. She was with me at that dark moment. My spiky blonde spot of hope.
And that’s her. She’s one of my favorite people, because she always gives me hope.
Yes, I would say my father is a good picker. I really lucked out in the stepparent department because my mom picked well too, but that’s a different story for a different day.
Today, it’s about her. Because today is her birthday. And I wanted her to know I still think she is pretty darn cool.
Happy Birthday to you Mrs. Fay.