My friend and colleague Fern uses the word delightful a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her swear. She is an expert in children’s literature. She married her high school sweetheart. She never wears pants to work—it’s jumpers or skirts and blouses, usually with pumps. Tasteful, diminutive jewelry. Before you get the idea that she is some kind of a do-gooder Little House on the Prairie type, you should know that Fern’s original field of study was Hemingway, and who’s more bad-ass than Hemingway? Her skirts reveal her gorgeous legs. I suspect that hidden in her dresser at home is a collection of expensive French lingerie.
Fern’s office is a room away from mine. It is painted a sunny yellow and filled with books, depictions of ferns, and plaques commemorating numerous awards that Fern has received for service to the university. Insider her desk is a little cache of chocolate. Fern is a moderate person, so it’s possible for her to have a big chocolate bar in her office for more than a day. (Speaking of chocolate caches, I found one my husband had hidden in a seldom-used drawer in our guest bathroom. The sneaky bastard!) Fern shares good things with others: chocolate, comic strips, funny stories. Fern’s husband Mike is a wonderful cook and baker. When I worked in the Writing Center with Fern, she’d often bring in his famous chocolate chip cookies. She never passed them off as hers, which is what I would do.
Although Fern and I are the same age, she seems (is) so much wiser and more mature. I suspect she was a wise, mature sort when she was seven.
I think I’m only now entering my mature period. I went through a bad spell last year—change of life, loss of a very good friend, the publication of my book (mostly a good thing, but also some stress with touring, expectations, etc.)—and I think I was bitchy. Fern is never bitchy.
If I need advice, Fern is only a door away. She is a good listener, and always says something nice: “Oh, I like that,” she’ll say, about a scarf or some earrings. “I like that.”