When I lived in Atlanta my best friend was Pat. Now, I have never known anyone like her, a zany, fun- loving blonde who often lived up to that age-old stereotype. Every morning after she took her kids to school Pat would come over for a cup of coffee, always getting my day off to a pleasant start as we sat there on the screen porch in the summer or at my kitchen table in the colder weather.
Pat drove an Audi, a sporty little car that zipped around with ease on those expressways. She was quick to put the “pedal to the metal,” oftentimes scaring me a bit, making me realize that God surely was watching over her, protecting all of us so many times that I could not begin to remember. She would be talking away and turn off right in front of another speeding vehicle, never missing a word, just continuing with whatever she was saying as I sat there holding on, trying to catch my breath. But oh, how I loved her and enjoyed being with her the four years that I was fortunate enough to be her neighbor.
It was Pat who taught me the art of bargain-hunting, many times driving to nice neighborhoods where they actually took the time to sell gently used items, especially children’s clothes, for little more than a dollar or two. She also knew all of the outlet malls, a bargain hunter’s paradise, and a place where I was able to find nice furnishings for our home far below retail price.
While Pat could be practical in her spending, she could also be the most sophisticated of Southern belles, reworking those garage sale finds into fashions suitable for Scarlet O’Hara. I watched her make elegant dinners in her home that were fit for a queen, plan banquets for 500 in her church, or just do a special lunch for two in her kitchen. It was all amazing to me how she could pull it all together in such a short time and always do such an excellent job. However, even with all of that, it was her unintentional ability to make me laugh that I most remember.
I suppose the funniest incident happened one afternoon when Pat called to tell me that she had taken their funky-looking little poodle to the Poodle Palace for a special grooming. Now, Honey was a sweet little dog who was quite obedient, one who could fetch a ball and return to Pat every time, but honestly, the little animal was plain ugly, and Pat knew it.
And so, Pat had heard that the Poodle Palace could work miracles, even with not-so-pretty poodles. It was with great anticipation that I opened my door that afternoon as she had driven into our driveway to show the remarkable results that had come about from that groomer’s hands. I could not believe my eyes. There in her arms was the cutest little dog I had ever seen, complete with a red bow on her head, painted nails and pearly white teeth.
“Why Pat,” I exclaimed, “I have never seen such a dramatic transformation.” Pat stood and beamed with pride, stroking Honey’s little head as she remarked, “Yes, that Poodle Palace really can work miracles.”
I stood at the window and watched as Pat loaded Honey in the car and drove across the street to her house. I had been the first to see her beautiful little dog, and now it was time for her husband and children to see. As I turned to go into the kitchen to start dinner that afternoon, I heard Pat coming out of her driveway once again, speeding her little Audi down the street as though she were going to a fire. In a few minutes I saw her return and go quickly into her house with Honey in her arms.
It was after supper that our telephone rang and I heard the voice of my dear friend, trying hard to hide her disappointment as she said, “Nancy, the Poodle Palace called and told me they had given me the wrong dog.” She continued, “When the real owner came and they tried to give her my dog, she told them there was no way that was her poodle.”
And so, I walked across the street to see the real Honey, the same ugly little dog who, unfortunately, had not been dramatically transformed– just received a nice haircut.
Nevertheless, Honey was a lovable animal; a wonderful family pet who reminded us that looks aren’t everything. She continued to fetch, sit, lie, and be a sweet companion for as long as she lived.
Even though that was more than 30 years ago, I never go to a garage sale, visit an outlet mall, have an elegant dinner, or see a poodle that I don’t remember my good friend, Pat, and the good times we had. And if I had one wish tonight, I think it would be for her to once again be my neighbor.