I can't remember the first time I met Rie. It seems like that should be seared into my brain but it isn't. All I know is that she became one of my favorite people to work with at my favorite job. There are many reasons for this. She was smart, funny, an elementary school principal during her daytime hours and gorgeous. Stop you in your tracks gorgeous. As the mother of three, she was also a caretaker. It wasn't all that unusual for one of us Natties to show up for a Saturday morning shift slightly hung over, and when I was having an especially rough morning she ran to the bagel shop and came back with a huge Coke.
"This will do the trick," she said. "Drink it up and you'll feel better soon. It works for me every time."
Besides all of those endearing qualities she could be snarky, and Lord help the woman who agonized over a clothing purchase. Rie spent a career working in some of the toughest schools in the city. She had no patience for faux agonizing over something so ridiculous. She'd seen plenty of the real kind on her job. She even lived some of it herself. If you had the unfortunate luck of waiting on someone like that, she'd come by on the pretense of straightening a rack and whisper in your ear "martyr" in proper, dramatic Masterpiece Theater British.
When that store suddenly closed, a few of us went to work at another equally funky boutique. This one was a bit more structured than the last one, and our days of having a glass of wine and talking books on a cold February night when the store was desolate came to an end.
After a little more than a year, I left to work closer to my neighborhood but Rie remained. I frequently would stop in and last year I worked there again over the Christmas season. Over the course of seven months I got my discount back and my weekly Rie fix. All was good in my little world again.
In a stroke of blessed karma for a deserving person, a manager's job opened up in Santa Fe and Rie jumped at the chance to change directions and start her life over. I was invited to a farewell party for her along with many others in her circle.
Rie described her life so far in Santa Fe. A great little adobe place with deep windowsills to put her chotchkes. A town where she walks everywhere. Back and forth to work and out to one of the many great restaurants for dinner.
She said that the best part of Santa Fe is looking up at night. "The sky is full of stars," she said. "And every night I look up at them and think of each of you."
I don't know if anybody besides me was crying, but I remember two years ago coming back from a sunset cruise in Mexico and as we headed to the parking lot I looked up at the sky. I'd never seen so many stars in my life. I remember when Mark and the kids and I were with his mom at Loon Lake in Washington State and up above the tall pines were thousands of stars. I remember having dinner on the patio of a restaurant in Leawood, Kansas with my neighbors and saying, "Can you believe all the stars out tonight?"
I didn't know we shared a fondness for the night sky, and though I don't know when, I am certain that I will cross paths with Rie again as we have criss-crossed for many years.
Until that happens I will seek out the starry starry nights in my regular life and thank the lucky ones for sending that dearie into my life.