Renée—the Duchess—stands to the far left in the second pew, on the starboard side of the church. She wears a wide-brimmed hat embellished liberally with feathers. Elaborate hats are just one of her many unique calling cards. The Duchess dresses as an Edwardian lady would, with fans, handkerchiefs and parasols. She lives at Briar Rose Cottage with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Romeo. She refers to herself as a Lifelong Flaming Bleeding Heart Liberal.
She is a trifle eccentric. Gloriously so.
It was her voice that I first noticed. The Duchess sang the Episcopal liturgy with operatic theatricality, performing brilliantly for herself and for her God. A true romantic, she is resolutely unabashed, sharing her passions with an actress’s dramatic flair.
I especially revel in her creativity when conveyed in the written word. I often laugh out loud at her missives: “Morning is the cruelest time. Even with coffee, I look at myself and I am more than slightly blurred. Perhaps with sun and breakfast, the mystery will unfold.”
The Duchess is perhaps 15 years older than me (I am not exactly sure, as Edwardian ladies don’t ask such questions.) But we discovered in the course of one conversation that we are kindred spirits.
Two years ago, a shared journey cemented our friendship: For months, a deep depression gripped the Duchess with relentless tenacity. It mirrored one of my earlier experiences, so I instinctively understood. I sat quietly with the Duchess, serving her tea while encouraging her that the sadness would dissipate. Then last fall, when she had come out of the depths of her despair, she cheered me through a gloomy November week with a surprise High Tea, replete with Pims cocktails, cucumber-watercress sandwiches and chocolate éclairs.
Like the Duchess herself, our friendship surpasses description.
In early August, I entered the above 300-word piece in Real Simple’s First Ever Simply Stated Blogger Contest. Not only is it the magazine’s first blogger contest, it was my first writing competition entry EVER. I didn’t get selected as a finalist, but it was a very good exercise for me to have to be so concise about someone so alive and description-worthy. I hope I did you justice, Duchess.