Barry Standard – Keeper of Traditions
By Edna Peirce Dixon
Yes, Barry! This is about you! And thank you once again for yet another beautiful birthday card with a newsy hand-written note. Congratulations on your first great granddaughter after all those great grandsons and so glad you are keeping up with things on Facebook. . .
Every November for more than 60 years, when my birthday rolls around, there has always been a card in my mailbox. Inside, a hand-written note wishing me and my family well and filled with news of family and activities that would brighten my day. It did not matter that I failed often to respond or even to remember her on her special day, Barry was constant and I’m quite sure she was equally as thoughtful of many others as well.
Though our paths have seldom crossed since our days in nursing school together, the times we did have were significant and memorable. We were not particularly close in school, but within a few years after graduation, circumstances would bring us together in a time when we both needed a connection. We had both married and each had a child. Barry’s husband was in the military stationed near Columbia, SC and my husband was a fulltime student at the University of South Carolina.
I had taken my first job working evening shift in the premature nursery at the old Columbia Hospital and Barry came to work evenings as well in a different department. I will never forget what a harrowing experience Barry had on her very first day of work. Without even a cursory orientation to the department, Barry was assigned as charge nurse, and among her charges, a critically ill patient. Not even the most experienced nurse ever wants to lose a patient, but we learn to take death in stride. Not so much when you are young and on your own in a strange environment with little support. This was my time to comfort Barry in her great distress when her patient passed that evening. I know she thought about quitting right then and there; I would have too, but no, this intrepid young woman came back and built a great nursing career.
Our friendship grew during that short time together. Barry sewed a darling Easter dress for my little girl. It was a beautiful aqua blue with ricrac trim. She made it with an extra deep hem that could be let down, so my tiny slender girl wore that sweet little dress for several years, long after our paths parted again and we each moved on to other places. The cards and letters continued – Barry’s regular at birthday and Christmas; mine haphazard, though my intentions were always good. But this is not the end of Barry’s thoughtfulness.
Several years ago, along with her newsy letter in my birthday card, she enclosed an envelope with a letter I had written to her in 1970, 45 years earlier, telling of our family activities in Texas and reminiscing about our time in Columbia. Oh, what a magnificent gift to have that letter to share with my now grown children! I asked that same little daughter who wore the sweet aqua blue dress with ricrac trim to read the letter out loud at a family gathering. We were all so touched.
My own life path took me back to school in the 80ies. This was when necessity called for a typewriter for my papers, but my husband insisted I needed a computer. I thought home computers were just a useless fad, but I went along with his better judgment, and nearly went bald from pulling my hair out trying to learn how to use the damned thing! But learn I did, and my skills grew as the internet grew, so this mode of communication is as automatic as breathing to me. I do understand, however, why many of my generation are still uneasy with computers, and sometimes I’d like to scream over the waste of such marvelous communications technology on utter nonsense as we now see all too often on Facebook.
After her retirement, and I’m sure with the encouragement of grandchildren, Barry got herself a FB page. And though she doesn’t use it much, we connected and lazy ole me… I start sending her online e-birthday wishes. Despite this, I still get the handwritten letter in a traditional birthday card. Old habits are hard to break. Then, once again on my birthday, another of Barry’s cards arrived right on time. And once again, it included an old letter she found. This time it was one I wrote to her on February 15, 1985. It started with an apology that it would be late for her birthday… (so what else is new?) The rest of the letter goes on to tell about having an empty nest with all the boys gone off to college, and my decision to go back to college. Oh, my, what fun I was having, how I loved going to school. I didn’t mention that I was still working part time at the hospital but talked about the new raptor center I was volunteering at and told her I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
In her note, Barry asked me if I ever finished school. Barry, I can honestly tell you I never did and never will. To bring you up to date, after taking every course they offered that interested me at my local community college, I went on to U.T. After a couple of semesters taking only courses I wanted, they kind of kicked me out when I balked over some of the less palatable required stuff. So the counselor suggested that if I wanted to write, that I should start writing! Duh! So, since I was not looking for a career, that’s exactly what I decided to do.
Barry, you also mentioned in your note that the present generation will not have letters to hold their memories for future generations. How sadly true this is. So my sweet friend, this transplant, this adopted southerner, salutes you for your lifelong friendship and thoughtfulness. It gives me great pleasure to write this little piece about you. When I think of you and our classmates as well as many of my childhood friends growing up in middle Georgia in the 40s and 50s, one thought comes to mind: You are the epitome of the perfect Southern Lady – far more than a fictional Steel Magnolia – a strong, loving, capable woman of faith and dignity who has faced difficult circumstances on your own terms and made enormous contributions to all that is right and good in the world. I love you and hope you will keep using that computer to write down your own remarkable story for future generations.
Thank you for being you!