There are those seminal events in life that you never forget, like where you were on 9/11, or what were you doing the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Two such events are forever linked in my mind: Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon walk and they day my best friend Anne walked into my life.
As a junior in high school, my mother decided it would be a great idea for our family to host a foreign exchange student during my senior year. The only problem was convincing my Dad that he also thought this was a great idea. After all, feeding another mouth for a year, and having a person in the house that perhaps did not speak English was going to require some doing on her part. My mother was nothing if not inventive, and like women across the ages, she usually came through the back door to get what she wanted, and she was darned good at it. My dad’s mother was English, and the apple of my his eye, so, my mother suggested we ask for a student from Great Britain. Voila! Mission accomplished.
So, on a hot July day in 1969, after staying up all night to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, our family was off to the bus station in Columbus, Ohio to meet our new family member from Cardiff, Wales, Anne. Little was I to know the full impact of this event. Sure, we had a memorable year. I learned to sing a few songs in Welsh, and Anne learned how to eat corn on the cob (food for pigs don’t you know) and peanut butter. We had English tea and took Anne to see Washington D.C. , Williamsburg and Florida. We took her camping and hiking and I sewed her some dresses. We rode our bikes and made Welsh dolls for Christmas, but what really happened is we became lifelong friends and honorary sisters.
I have lost track of how many times I have visited Wales over the last forty years. Anne and I travel together frequently, and she is always willing to indulge whatever weird interest I have going on at the time. She has driven me to Yorkshire to buy textile art supplies, taken me to garden centers when I wanted to see how the Brits do it, followed me through Laura Ashley shops to look at fabric, eaten lunch with me in the crypt at St. Martins in the Field and walked through the Egyptology exhibit at The British Museum to mention just a few. The last time I was there, I asked her to drive me around so I could photograph some trees, “You know, you really have some good ones over here,” I said in my most convincing voice. The majestic oak tree I photographed at Thornhill Farm, not far from Cardiff, was later translated into a quilt. I once asked Anne if there was any of my wacky ideas that she would not indulge. After some thought, she stated that she drew the line at bungee jumping or watching sporting events of any kind. Whew! I’m off the hook there. That’s where I draw the line, too!