She was proudly of Mayflower stock and pronounced tomatoes the English way. Her husband was a California golden boy—tall, fair and dashing. He was a navy man in the Pacific during World War II and counted movie legend William Holden a close friend. He later joined the faculty at Harvard’s business school, which is where they enter my story. My father took his class, apparently made an impression, and was invited for a home-cooked meal. She was instantly entranced with her husband’s new protégé, my rather charismatic Egyptian father. Life-long friends they all became. We moved to their little hamlet of Lincoln just a few short years later.
Family holidays, from the traditional Fourth of July barbecue to the Norman Rockwell-caliber Thanksgiving Day feast, were shared. Graduations were attended, reminders of proper manners doled out, commendations on good grades given, and secrets of her recipes shared. She was my adopted grandmother in America. She’d never asked for that role but she assumed it with grace.
She was an impressive woman in her own right–established artist, thoughtful liberal, herculean cook, flawless hostess–and perhaps slightly formidable to my young self. Our paths would have never crossed were it not for my father walking into her husband’s classroom one day. She (and he) unwittingly became an integral part in this immigrant’s family with one simple dinner invitation. A genuine friend to my parents until her final days, and a loving constant in the lives of my sisters and I. Unexpected twists can often bring great reward