Saturday, April 26, 2008
Sally and Queen's Day
For the past few weeks, I've been very conscious of the word "Sally." Out of nowhere I've heard people talk about a famous Sally or a friend named Sally. Looking through the spice drawer, I came across "Salie," which is Dutch for sage. I've heard people use strange archaic phrases like "sally forth." My brain has been really allert to every reference to Sally. And I've been using a book with one of my students that has the name Sally all through it, like the example above. "Sally won't be back, will she?" It made me gulp when I read it. It's true, though.
For years, the only Sally I had ever heard of was Sally Brown, Charlie Brown's younger sister. I thought it was one of those quaint names that went out of use for some reason. It seemed like a cartoon character name - like Grace or Penny or Jane. (Forgive me, I came of age in the Seventies in Bedford, Texas.) Then I met Sally Pepper.
I also went for a really long time without knowing anybody who died, which is really strange for a gay man who lived in New York City through the Nineties. I had grandparents die, but that's different. It's expected, predictable. But I've still got (knock wood) both parents and both of my siblings. And all of my good friends from high school and college are still around. People who die in my world have not historically been really close. They've been friends of friends or friends that I'd lost contact with years before. Of course, I'm getting older, so it makes sense that I would be experiencing this, but still.
The other day, I heard a really great interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I think it was Philip Roth. He was talking about all of these "rules" that we, as humans, live with. That there's an order to life: Grandparents die and then parents. Children are not supposed to die before parents, and siblings fit in there somewhere. But there's no rule about friends. So I don't feel prepared. I guess no one does, but the only head I inhabit is my own.
It's been six months since Sally died. Like a lot of things, it seems like it just happened and it seems like a lot longer than six months all at the same time. Queen's Day, 30 April, was one of Sally's favorite holidays. She always had an open house and had a table selling things at her front door. We always went by and said hi and had a drink. She was a great host. Here's a snap of Sally and her mother, Dottie, flanking Fred on Queen's Day three years ago.
Fred has wanted to leave town for Queen's Day for the past couple of years, but it hasn't been convenient and I always wanted to be around for the mess that is Amsterdam on Queen's Day. Plus, it was always such a pleasure to visit Sally and hang out. We won't be around this year. Fred gave me a trip to Rome for Christmas (in 2006) and we decided that this is the weekend for me to cash it in. I'm looking forward to it. It should be a lot of fun. Plus, it might make me a little sad to be hit in the face with the reality that we wouldn't be stopping by Sally's to say hi and grab a free book or two - she always refused to take my money. But we'll be thinking of her in Rome and maybe we'll even light a candle or two for her when we're touring one of the many churches that are sure to be on our agenda. They have churches there, right?
At the end of it all, it's nice to keep seeing "Sally" and remembering Sally. I can see me telling her that and her saying, "That's so funny..." and then launching into a story. Love that.
On the subject of Queen's Day, I wrote a little piece that's on a website called Amsterdam Spoke. It's a new website that I hope will be in print one of these days. They're still working out some bugs, which is why I haven't mentioned this before. As I write this, it's on the front page. The pictures are even my very own snaps. I also wrote an article about a little bar that's re-opening in Amsterdam after 25 years of sitting dormant. It's under Arts and Entertainment and it's called "Cafe 't Mandje." I hope to be doing more writing for this website. So that's good news.
We're off to Rome today and we'll be back on Wednesday. Have a good weekend and a very nice Queen's Day.