From the first, Bronnie talked about his cousin Sara as friend, sister, confidante. And although I wasn’t to know it then, Sara and I were one day to become cousins by marriage.
Our first meeting (memory don’t fail me now) was at a restaurant in Boston. Bronnie and I were in the throes of the messy beginnings of our relationship amidst judgement and opinion – some valid, some not, most unsolicited.
This was the background against which I was to meet this doyenne Bronnie so revered.
And what did I know secondhand? Well, I knew Sara was funny, cultural, intelligent, intellectual and creative. She had been a clown for many years and (naturally) a good one. Nicknamed ‘Dilly’ the clown, I knew Sara then interchangeably by her birth name and her stage name. She was later to step out from behind the shield of Dilly and ask to be known by her given name.
Why, then, had I agreed to meet another woman with the power to hammer as many nails into my coffin as she liked? Was our meeting to be like the now ubiquitous talent shows where, after a few minutes audition, she would press the buzzer and ask I be removed from her presence?
But no. Sara and I hit it off from the start. We had the same warped and ironic sense of humour; the same appetite for the unusual and banal, and the gift (let’s call it a gift) of finding amusement or talking point in almost anything.
One treasured memory (of many) is when we one day tagged along with Bronnie to Martha’s Vineyard where he had a business meeting. Waving Bronnie off, we clutched maps, leaflets and lofty aims of being cultural, creative and fabulous. In the end, this looked a lot like eating ice-cream, drinking our body weight in coffee, having a long lunch and sitting on every available bench we came across – talking and laughing all the while.
I can’t remember now which one of us had the idea of reading up on all the culture we should have absorbed that day and pretend to anyone who asked we had actually seen and done those things. This memory makes me laugh still.
I had met that rarest of person – someone with whom to just be. Talk, don’t talk, sit on a bench and people watch, agree to try Reiki for the first time. Yes, now a Reiki Master I believe (Sara will correct me if not), I witnessed and experienced this holistic treatment for the first time through the loving hands of my cousin Sara.
Sara is all the things Bronnie promised she would be and more. We don’t speak on the phone every day or month even, but when we do inhabit the airwaves it can be for 2-3 hours at a time. Conversations that sometimes begin with both of us saying “I can’t stay on the phone long…” Right.
It is also Sara who is responsible for my moniker ‘Her-Mel-ness.’ I can’t remember where we were, but she said “Yes, Her-Mel-ness,” in response to something I had said. Not sure I liked the inference, I told her the nickname sounded a little like someone who was imperious and way to pleased with themselves.
Sara looked at me. I looked at Sara. We both burst out laughing. The nickname stuck.
I’m hoping that one day those who don’t know Sara may be able to experience her unique way of looking at the world. A gifted writer, I have enjoyed the pieces I have been privileged to read or hear through her spoken words. Words which can be poignant, funny, heartbreaking but always breathtakingly real. Defying categorisation, I would peg my cousin’s style as a cross between Dorothy Parker, Eleanor Roosevelt and Bette Midler.
But I don’t think it’s the many things we have in common that bind me to Sara. That Bronnie loved her first is certainly part of that glue, but I have also learnt a lot from Sara in the spaces that make us different from each other.
But like Bronnie, Sara has been a cousin, sister and confidante to me. She is also that friend we all need who will look us in the eyes kindly and tell us gently when we’re full of shit.
Everyone should be blessed with a cousin Sara.
Happy birthday, Sara. I love you.