Sunday, July 26, 2009

To Pansy with love

Pansy . . . how to wish you a Happy Birthday?
How to say something that, in the course of your ninety-eight years, hasn't been said countless times before? How to repeat, without embarrassing you, that you really are an incredible, accomplished, loving and immensely lovable friend?

How many years ago was it that we met? Do you remember? You'd come to London to spend a year studying at The Royal School of Needlework. Your daughters, Mary and Anne, had grown up. Bill, your wonderful husband, supported your crazy dream, and so . . . you came from Nevada, and rented a flat alongside mine in Bayswater.

Do you remember the beautiful and intricate needlework that you created? Some of the specimens so small, so delicate, that it was hard to realise that needle and thread could have produced them. Only a few years ago when you were going to throw them out, I persuaded you to give them back to the college, and your fine work is now on display in Hampton Court Palace. There can't be many Americans who have their needlework on display in an English palace!

Over the years you have sent me so many beautiful gifts, Pansy. Books, ornaments, toys for Rupert. Do you remember the splendid cat cushion? I thought you might like to see this photo of Rupert sleeping admiringly above it!

To my friends and god-children, you've offered a joyful example of living life to the full, of investing every talent, of exploring every avenue. Each year they've eagerly participated in compiling a tape of messages to commemorate your birthday. They are your friends, every bit as much as I am.
Like me, they marvel at your many achievements - not least that you started writing poetry (fine, thought-provoking poetry) when you were ninety, and have recently produced two, delightful volumes of "Silly Tales". As I've told you, your 'tales' are much enjoyed in London

Shall I tell you a secret? You know that, over the years, you've been generously sending me videotapes. Tapes of lectures and debates that you've attended at The University of San Diego, the University for The Third Age. You must have been well over eighty when you started to send me these tapes, I was a mere stripling by comparison. But you educated me, Pansy! I never dared to admit how ignorant I was on most of the subjects covered by those tapes. Instead, shamed by my lack of knowledge, I watched them . . . and was enlightened and inspired.
Thank you more than I can say.

Pansy, you'll never grow old. You have that wonderful secret of carrying all the best qualities of youth into old age. Do you remember what you said to me in a letter twenty-eight years ago?
"I can't believe I'm seventy," you wrote, "I still haven't decided what I want to do when I grow up!"

Do you still play the piano, Pansy? You are such a talented pianist. A classics scholar, a linguist, a traveller . . . is there no end to your accomplishments?

Your much-loved children and grand-children will be with you for your birthday. But, please, whilst you are unwrapping your presents, remember that, in spirit, and also by means of this letter, your friends from London will be there beside you in San Diego.
Don't think you can keep us out of your celebrations! All of us, all your friends who, over the years, have enthusiastically contributed to so many birthday tapes . . . we'll be thinking of you, remembering you, treasuring your friendship, and wishing you a wonderful, wonderful day.

Happy Birthday, dear Pansy!