Journal Buddies # 15: Describe A Person You Admire …

This photo, taken in 1972 and featuring no one I know, as far as I know, seems like a scene from Babs’s life; just an easy summer night in Chicago — with a touch of gossip in the air. Photo by Victor Albert Grigas (1919-2017) via Wikipedia.



This is the 15th installment in a series of 51 posts inspired by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing it.


There are legions of people I admire — frontline healthcare workers come to mind — but I think we could all use a little more Babs right now, am I right? Much to my delight (though not at all to my surprise), the lady has been awfully popular around here.

However much her personality has chafed certain people over the years, I suspect Babs has been popular her whole life. I say this because of the pictures of her I’ve seen from her young adulthood looking achingly pretty in expensive dressed, and also something that happened at the building Christmas party.

First, you need to know that Babs has a great laugh, partly because she doesn’t laugh very often, not outright. Hers is a dry, acerbic sense of humor, so she’s generally the one making the joke, or the one pointing out the obvious. Babs is droll. She does not chortle; she would die before she’d ever guffaw. She’s more likely to simply acknowledge when something is objectively amusing. When she does laugh, however, out comes this surprising glissando laugh: “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” It’s musical. It goes up and down the scale. It’s the sound of pure mirth.

I discovered this laugh when I was over at her place one evening, obviously drinking wine. Babs was in an elegant pantsuit, freshly manicured, dishing about the condo board. She was trying to remember the name of the person who had most recently annoyed her.

“Oh, oh, wait,” I said, “is it the lady who always looks like this?” I squinted my eyes, furrowed my brow, and wrinkled my nose like I was smelling smelly garbage and said in a nasal voice, “Oh, hi Mary. How arrrre you?”

Babs opened her mouth and out came that laugh. She didn’t throw her head back, she didn’t lean forward. She just pushed play on that “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” music. She was delighted at my impression and I detected she was also impressed at my ability as a mimic. It felt a bit mean, poking fun at our neighbor, but I confess that I basked, just a tiny bit, in Babs’s approval.

Back to the Christmas party:

That night, I was feeling puffy. You know how you just feel puffy, sometimes? I put on a black dress that usually works, but I was just so puffy and my cheeks were blotchy and I had a blemish. I also have agonizing social anxiety, but it’s extra bad when I’m in large groups of people with whom I wish to make a good impression. But there was no getting around it: Making an appearance at this function — especially as the building’s newest resident – was essentially mandatory. I groaned and took my puffy self up to the seventh floor dragging Eric, who is even less enthused about these sorts of things than I am. He could stay 10 minutes and dip, I said; I’ll take one for the team and make the rounds.

In the host’s apartment on the seventh floor (a three-settee living room), people were milling about. There was a shrimp platter and finger sandwiches; there was focaccia; there were pinots blanc and noir and a basket of chocolate-dipped snacks. I took a deep breath and introduced myself to this and that person as I made my way from room to room, checking my teeth a zillion times for kiwi seeds and/or lipstick as I told people that I work in the quilt industry, yes, that’s right, yes, quilting, like quilts, for the bed, but there are other kinds also, and I’m the editor of the bestselling quilt magazine, yes, there is more than one quilt magazine, the quilt industry, yes there’s a quilt industry, is valued around 3.5 billion and you know, online dating is worth just 3 billion … I was getting more exhausted by the minute because being obsessed with the state of one’s teeth and explaining what I do takes effort when I’m meeting a new person, but it takes true endurance to meet so many new people I have to explain it six or seven times in two hours.

Finally, I spied Babs. She was perched on a settee (!) in the living room, holding court. When she saw me, she lit up and waved me over.

“Mary, I have to talk to you,” she said. I sat down, thrilled to be off-duty. It was this conversation that led me to concur that Babs has doubtless always been one of the popular girls and, though I cringe to say so, probably one of the mean girls from time to time. It was how she put a hand on my shoulder and turned us just slightly away from the crowd to basically whisper gossip in my ear. I was instantly uncomfortable with this, party because I have been present at parties where I was the one being whispered about and it’s such an awful experience, but — far more critically — I did not want to be cast as a scuttlebutt at this, my building debut.

Then Babs pulled me in. It was like Babs a tractor beam. She mentioned the neighbor I had done the impression of a few weeks back and again couldn’t remember her name. Before I knew it, I wrinkled my nose and said under my breath, “Oh hi, Mary” and out it came: “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” The laugh of the most popular — and potentially most resented — girl at the party rose above the sounds of the crowd and there I was, in cahoots with Babs.

I do adore her. I do admire her, but I don’t like to be in cahoots with anyone. I’m not a cahooter.

Oh, my dearlings! These blog entries keep getting longer and longer. I’ll finish up with Babs next time. I’m afraid that if I keep writing novels here in PaperGirl 2.0 I’ll lose folks, not because the content is bad (I’m enjoying writing to you more than ever, which I hope comes through) but because we are on the internet and when we’re in the strange, wide saddle of the internet, attention tends to slide off. It happens to us all, even Babs, who I know does a little online shopping from time to time.

The pandemic has brought its gifts, however ruinous and deadly it continues to be: Babs and I have become closer than ever in the past month. There’s no cahooting, either; just aid, affection … and phone conversations about Governor Cuomo:

“Oh, that Cuomo is just divine,” Babs said. “I wouldn’t mind snuggling up to him on a cold night.”

17 Responses

  1. Laura Dene Mchugh
    | Reply

    They are just the right length. Of all I look at on the internet, it is these posts I save to savor when I need a bit of buffeting. Thank you Mary. (And I make quilts to stay sane too.)

    • Patti Todd
      | Reply

      Love your blogs!

  2. Laura Lukes
    | Reply

    Oh, believe me, your blogs are not long enough! Delightful, yes; anxiously awaited, of course; but never too long.

  3. Marianne Fons
    | Reply

    Mary, this is your mother. Thank you for this much needed hilarity!

  4. Heidi
    | Reply

    I’ve heard many who have tired of explaining their work to simply state, “I’m an artist” or more specifically, “I’m a fiber artist”. Love the magazine!

  5. Nancy Pederson
    | Reply

    I agree with the other people who have given their opinion.

    But I’ll also add that I totally enjoy everything you write about!

  6. Caroline Nelson
    | Reply

    You are providing me with much needed humor and grounding right now. I wait anxiously await your next contribution!

  7. Michael
    | Reply

    You are a Certified writer now. I want more, Thank you.


  8. Kayla
    | Reply

    Your posts could never be too long! I always enjoy them so!

  9. Pamela Barnes
    | Reply

    Splendid. Just keep sharing Babs with us.

  10. Karen
    | Reply

    You have perfect posts — perfect content and perfect length! And I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next installment!

  11. Terri Turner
    | Reply

    I still want to meet Eric!

  12. Pam Buck
    | Reply

    Really enjoy your blog and so glad to have them to read again

  13. Margaret S
    | Reply

    I love these stories and honestly I love the fact you say you’re in the quilting industry! Others often skirt it in interviews where I’ve read things like fiber artist, fabric artisan, etc. Its quilting and glad you are proud of your many accomplishments!

  14. Wilma Bland
    | Reply

    I needed you today. Thanks for putting icing on the cake with the Babs remark about the governor. I am really admiring the guy’s political style in the midst of the pandemic theatrical performances from others. Makes me almost wish I was a New Yorker rather than the rain country webfoot that I am. Thanks for bringing genuine laughter to me.

  15. Cathy Arnold
    | Reply

    I adore everything you write! And I can understand that explaining “Quilting” (Artist, Teacher, Writer, Editor, second generation CELEBRITY!) as a career can be challenging. But it is worth the effort, because in my experience the Quilting Family (zillions world-wide) is the most talented, generous, compassionate, and intelligent community in the universe. Your sweet Mother, without any request from anyone, made an absolutely breath-taking quilt that she auctioned on-line to raise money for my quilting sister, Libby Lehman, after she had a very serious burst aneurism and stroke. The funds that your Mother raised provided Libby with months of therapy and care that she would not have been able to have otherwise. Quilters like you and your Mother Rock!!!

  16. Kathleen BeBeau
    | Reply

    Lovely read to start my day!

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