Ladies and the Slipper

Halinka calls me from Lebanon as she makes her way from Chicago to visit me in Indianapolis on her way to spend the winter in Florida.  I usually get no notice when she is about to pass through.  She objects to making a plan.  At least it is the day after Christmas and I did know she was coming and I was available.

I ask her to come to the house as it is beautifully decorated for Christmas.  She can’t take the time to stop by my house because it might take too long.  She is retired, has no where to be in any certain time frame. She could take 10 days to drive to Florida if she wanted, but she is in hurry. She has traveled the world several times but still gets lost every time she comes to my house.  She knows her way to Panera on I-65 and Southport Road.  I meet her there.  It is our new tradition.  She races in at the speed of light for 20 minutes of conversation and then she is gone.  Did I tell you she is retired?

the most unlikely of friends

4 of usFor 37 years we have been the most unlikely of friends. We are as different as night and day. We would probably kill each other if we lived in the same town. We met through our husbands who were Engineers in a Masters Program in Robotics at Brigham Young University in Utah (the first non-Mormon’s to attend.)  We have been fast friends ever since even though the husbands jumped ship years ago.  We have been there for each other through the highs and lowest of lows.  We have pee’d our pants laughing and thank goodness we can at least agree on what is funny.

Young beautiful

young and beautiful

We have gone from young, skinny and beautiful to to just beautiful.  We keep betting on who will lose their mind first. She had me going today.  I actually think I won the contest in 2006 when I had a car accident that resulted in a head injury. Everyone has to continually refresh my memory on things I don’t remember. But I am better, so we are betting once again.

I brought her a goodie bag full of homemade Christmas cookies and candy and one of the calendars I design and photograph.  I don’t know why I am giving her a calendar because she seldom knows what day it is and a calendar will not help this problem. Penciling me in for her return trip will never work.  She hops in her car at the first sign of Florida humidity and heads north. She could at least give me two days of notice if she called me when she leaves, but she calls me from Tennessee if I am lucky and the Indiana line if I am not. But I digress…back to who will lose their mind first.

it is those slippers you wanted

helene IkoShe said “I have a gift for you in the car.  It is those slippers you wanted.”  I look at her with a puzzled expression.  What slippers?  I never remembered mentioning anything about slippers.  But you never know with me and since I don’t remember very well, I have to trust her.  There is always the language barrier challenge too.  Even after 37 years, she still speaks with a heavy European accent which can make common words misunderstood and then there are the words that are simply just the wrong word, but who cares!  And when she brings Iko along who is Asian, no one can understand a thing.   So I am wracking my brain about ever having a conversation with her about slippers.

As we talk, she lists all the things she forgot to pack on this trip including her gun.  I burst out laughing and tell her that if she would have stopped by my house I could have “borrowed her the gun.”  She understands this.  If I would have said I will lend you one of my guns, she would have the same expression on her face that I have now thinking about slippers.  There are a half dozen things she has forgotten for this trip.  Forget making a list as she says she has tried and she loses the list.  In 37 years absolutely nothing has changed.

the first to lose her mind

Her internal hurry clock says it is time to go, so she leaps up almost upsetting the table at Panera and races out the door to her car.  She is always a half mile ahead of me and I am the young one.  Meanwhile as I get out of my chair at a respectable and safe pace, I reach the car and she pulls out a bag and says “here are the slippers you wanted.”  I still don’t get it.  They are pink slippers from the I Love Lucy era. They actually look like they were used on the show.  I tell her thanks a lot and ask her to refresh my memory on why I would have told her I wanted a pair of these type of slippers.  All the while I realize, she has just won the contest for being the first to officially lose her mind.  She really should not be in possession of a gun.

20151226_141337smShe bursts out laughing and says “remember the last time I did stop by your house and brought you an orchid, you told me your favorite orchid was a Lady Slipper orchid.”  She said at the time (but she claims I said it) “I better write this down or else you might get a pair of house slippers instead of a Lady Slipper orchid.”   Then it comes back to me, not about the orchid, but about the fact that when she does get it written down and it comes time to look at the list, if she can actually find the list, she either can’t read her writing or she mistakes the meaning of what she has written.  Did I mention there are language challenges?

oh you meant a lady slipper orchid

All I know is she remembered my favorite orchid from a list she made a year ago.  She remembered to go buy it and pack it so it would not get crushed for this trip.  Did I tell you she is a bit like a bull in a china shop.  Many things get broken due to her break neck speed (she kept Crate and Barrel in business.) And she remembered to pack the pink house slippers that she has been wearing for 20 years.


So before we are dead and gone or we really do lose our minds and can’t remember the 37 years of adventures, I thought I would pay a little tribute to my dear friend.  I have entirely too many recent pictures at Panera Bread!

polly helene

As I sorted through all the pictures, I realize I can’t cut out the husbands.  They represented 20 of the 37 years! They have gotten their just rewards anyway with those new wives who are now just as old as we are…just not as beautiful.

Marlon HelenePolly Paul





I think of all the parties, all the music gigs, disco balls, all the 3 against 1 arguments, all those trips to Chicago (where she lived), all those nights where we got home when the sun was coming up, the pool parties, the broken ribs, all the dancing, the wonderful meals and after all those years the only Polish word I know how to say is “Jen KOO yeh” which is the perfect word as I thank you for all the memories.  Of course there is Nostrovia but that is Russian, but we sure did say it a lot!

PollyHelene marlon

In the 17 years we have been on our own, we have climbed on roofs, re-plumbed toilets, ridden a few bulls, established an impressive gun collection and put many a man in jail and laughed and cried through the incredible pain and losses and we have celebrated the joy.

I have finally come around to her conservative way of thinking.  She was always the smart one, retired early, has investment houses in Florida, lives in Poland half the year and jets around the world exploring foreign cultures.  She still burns the garlic bread and offers many a fine expletive and every time I ask her for an exact recipe she says “I haf no ideeeeah how much ingredient to use.” Other than burning and breaking things, she is still the best cook I know.  Her heart is gold and I am blessed to call her my friend.

So here is to you my dear friend.  Nostrovia and “Jen KOO Yeh”


Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan treasuring years of friendship.