Happy Birthday to My Friend, Nan!

Jan 2, 2014 | 1 comment

Nancy Stone, C, 1950

Nancy Stone, circa 1950

Yesterday was my friend Nancy Russell-Stone’s birthday.  I called but had to leave a message.  I do hope she was out kicking up her heels.

Nan was the first baby born in Oakland, California in 1936 so I invariably think of her as we usher in the New Year.  I met her in 1948 when I enrolled in the eighth grade at E Street Grammar School in San Rafael, California.  We had just moved to Marin County from Alameda via Oysterville and Nan was my first friend there.

It was back in the days that kids were ‘tracked’ in school.  Nan and I were both in ‘8-X’ which was the fast track and, even then, felt uncomfortably elitist to us both.  We still talk about the teachers we had that year, our favorite and most influential being our English teacher, Mrs. Barnes. She taught us to diagram sentences which both Nan and I loved.  We would often ask permission to stay in at recess and diagram the longest sentences we could think of on the blackboard.  (Much more fun for us than playing kickball out on the playground.)

Nan, 2012

Nan, 2012

I think Nan said Mrs. Barnes’ first name was Dorthea.  Nan had lived in San Rafael for a while so she knew stuff like that.  As it turned out, Nan continued to live in Marin and is still in the greater Bay Area – now in Healdsburg – and is still in touch with many of those eighth grade “kids.”  Meanwhile I inched my way farther and farther afield.

Still, we’ve kept in touch all these years – not so much when we were young marrieds, but enough so we remember one another’s children as infants and toddlers and we knew each other’s various husbands! We both agree that our current situations (she with Jack, I with Nyel) are the best ever.

Nan and I began as opposites, or so we thought.  I felt I was too skinny; she felt she was too chubby.  I was an only child with both parents; she was the oldest of three and her parents were divorced.  I had few responsibilities; Nan had to take charge of the household and her siblings because her mother worked full-time.

Nan and Jack, 2012

Nan and Jack, 2012

It wasn’t until we were well into adulthood that we realized that each of us envied the other during those adolescent years.  I can remember how impressed I was that Nan could put together a delicious meal, often with vegetables that she had tended in the backyard garden, while I could do little more than boil water for a serving or two of Kraft Dinner.  She is still a fabulous cook (and enjoys it!) while I am only adequate and gladly let my willing husband take over the kitchen.

Nan has had several homes in the Bay Area and all reflect her interest and appreciation for nature, for art, for the mysterious and the spiritual.  I always feel right at home among her things and her people, yet I feel that she represents the softer more sentimental side of life and I cleave to the harder-edged more practical aspects.  I think of our personalities as complementary.  I hope she does, too.

I love spending time with her and, no matter how long we’ve been apart, we seem to pick up just where we left off.  It’s the best kind of friendship – long-term and uncomplicated.  And, I try not to let her forget that she is older and therefore, wiser.  By two entire months!  Happy Birthday, Nan!

1 Comment

  1. Carolline Miller

    I hope your friend Nan had a great birthday. I’m sure she’s delighted to be featured in your blog memories. Nice to know there are two others in this strange and crazy world who liked to diagram sentences. I no longer feel alone.


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