I’ve often wondered what happened to Sally Lawler. I first met tall Sally was when I was a freshman at Montclair State College. She floated across the cafeteria with her blonde hair cascading down her dramatic black cape, her elegant hand waving in the air as she crossed the room to join us. My boyfriend Ray knew her from his politics class and said we’d become fast friends. He was right.
Sally played the flute, visited Caracas on winter breaks, and spoke as if she’d gone to boarding school. Had she told me she’d been raised by servants in the French countryside, I would have believed her, though there wasn’t a pinch of phoniness to her. She’d actually grown up in Rockaway, New Jersey, lived in a humble home, worked at the Shop Rite, and at 19 was engaged to marry Joe McEvoy, the 27 year old store manager. Still, she was the most naturally sophisticated woman I had ever met.
We’d play pool downstairs next to the Rathskeller, where she’d throw her head back, laugh at my jokes, and say, “Oh, let’s do this again soon.” And we would.
She invited me to have dinner with her and Joe at Gino’s Italian Restaurant in Dover, New Jersey. After dinner, with Joe sitting by her side, she handed me a wrapped gift and said “You’ve been such a lovely friend to me. I want you to have this.” I opened the box and inside was a gold bracelet. It wasn’t my birthday. We weren’t exchanging Christmas presents. She just wanted to give me a present for being her friend.
After that night, I avoided Sally. I was embarrassed. I couldn’t afford to treat for dinner the next time or buy a gift in return. So, in shame, I walked away from Sally’s friendship. It’s something that’s bothered me over the years. I thought who I was wasn’t enough, and maybe for some it isn’t, but for many it is. I see that in the good friends who are in my life today. I only wish I knew it sooner. Accepting graciously and letting people love you for who you are is a fine, fine gift indeed. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, especially to you Sally Lawler, wherever you are.