Monday, February 16, 2009

For the love of a friend...

I often wonder why I am drawn to one item or another. What makes it something that I really must have and can’t do without it??? I feel that all the “THINGS” we collect represent a part of your life and become the story board that explains who we are.

Well, I finally figured out exactly why I am drawn to HEARTS. (Only took me till I was 41….)

Maybe 15 or more years ago, before I was married, I met a friend Nanci Vacala. We met because I took a job as a “Christmas Designer” with Philips Florist in the Chicago area. Nanci and her mother were the head designers and I was a worker bee. We worked together through long hours and endless amounts of ribbon, mica flakes and garland. While I only did one season of this work, I learned more in that 6 months than I could have learned in a year of design school.

Nanci was the most creative person I have ever met. She taught me much of what I know and cherish today. She gave me inspiration that will last the rest of my life and gave me the tools I need to keep creating.

When the Christmas season ended at Philips Display, we were both out of work. Nanci decided she was not going back to Philips and wanted to spend the next several months re-decorating the condo she and her husband Greg owned. So, instead of getting a job right away…. I hung out with Nanci.

I helped her paint her kitchen cabinets, I helped her arranged artwork on the walls, I helped organize closets and in return she gave me a few extra bucks. She didn’t realize the value of the education she gave me in those next months we spent working side by side.

She had this amazing knack of putting collections together. For a short time she worked with a group that did estate sales and with this unbelievable fortune she found some of the most interesting items. One collection I just adored, Hearts. She must have had 50 or more different types of hearts, perfectly displayed on a small kitchen wall. The hearts covered the entire wall from top to bottom and it was just an amazing work of art.

Living without a job was no longer an option and I returned to the workforce. I moved into the city and soon there after met my husband John. I still visited with Nanci and told her all my stories and escapades. Life as a single person with a new boyfriend was much different than her life back in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Never-the-less, when I got engaged I asked Nanci to stand up in my wedding. She agreed, but reluctantly, because Nancy had a secret. She unfortunately had a terrible eating disorder. She had been hospitalized many times and tried to hide it from all that knew her.

Greg and her parents helped her through as much as they could but, no amount of their love could save her from herself. She was so skinny and tried to hide it with her body with her awesome wardrobe. Her skin was pale and drawn and she tried to hide that with tanning lotions and makeup. One thing that she couldn’t hide was her pain. For what ever reason, she could not see what a wonderful, loving, creative person she was.

While preparing for my wedding Nanci helped me with everything and I mean everything. She set me up with all the right contacts and helped work with colors and numerous other things that would take me years to explain. One event still stands out in my mind… the day we tried on bridesmaid dresses. She ordered a size 10, when we all knew was a size two or zero. We took pictures of the dress on her and kept them to show everyone. If I had only stopped and thought about what was happening and what I was doing to her, maybe I could have stopped the outcome.

A few days before the wedding, Greg called to tell me that Nanci was in the hospital and that they would not be at the wedding. I was devastated but had no choice and had to move forward. It was the stress of walking down the isle in that dumb bridesmaid dress that made her physically ill and in turn put her in the hospital.

I didn’t see Nancy for quite some time after the wedding and our friendship kind of went on the back burner. We had made a date for Greg and Nanci to come and see our new home and share dinner, but it never transpired. We both canceled on one another.

I wouldn’t see Nanci again for several years and the next meeting happened only by chance. I was at a salon in Downers Grove preparing for my brothers wedding. I was 6 months pregnant with Mac and looking just huge. There she was getting her nails done and as awkward as it was, we talked for a while and promised to get together.

It never happened. The next time I would hear Nanci’s name would be from my parents. For some reason my parents read the obituary everyday and they came across Nanci’s name, just by chance. I would not have known that she died if it were not for them. When they read to me the listing I felt my heart drop to the floor and I knew a part of me just died.

I attended the funeral and said the few words that I could muster. All I really could do was cry and hug Greg. I couldn’t deny the fact that I really wanted to take back those years that we missed together, I wanted a “do over”.

So….that is the story about why I love to collect hearts. It makes me think of Nanci and all the good times that we had together. They remind me of her and inspire me to take a differnt approach to life and decorating.

I can’t change life and have finally accepted that fact, but I know I can make it better by remembering the events of my life. It is those memories that help shape who I am.

Nanci is a part of my life forever and I thank God for that blessing. I will keep looking for those perfect hearts to fill the void she left and replace it with the thoughts of her creativity and love.

No comments: