Those friends from middle school are unique. They are the ones you grow up with and make memories with that last forever. I’ve drifted away from most of those, but about six years ago I reunited with Cathy and we became closer than ever. It’s like we fell right back into that kinship that all the years had not erased. We began to hang out now a few times a month – it might have been a concert, listening to an author speak, going to a class, poking through a bookstore, or whatever we could find to do. A few years ago we even went to several funerals together. In March I had to go to one alone. Hers.
I don’t even know where to begin to think about Cathy. She was the kind of person who made you feel she was truly interested in you and your well-being.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24
Cathy truly stuck close to me, like the sister I never had. I could talk to her about anything. I don’t think I’ll ever have another friend like her. I thank God for the time he gave us.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. – Psalm 116:15
In Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, Aunt Ellen was described as “…seeming exactly strong enough for what was needed for her life.”
This is so much like Cathy. She had a quiet strength that took her to the end with hope and grace. For the two years we corresponded via snail mail and texts, she never grumbled. Rarely would she mention a hardship, but when she did it was more like she was just telling me about it, not complaining. She would talk about the future, the adventures we would have. When I went to home to Jacksonville and took her out, she never let on how long it took her to get ready; how she had to wait for some of the drugs to get out of her system before she could function.
We would go out to eat and she would eat like a bird, then have the rest packed up to take home. But, we would sit at the restaurant for several hours just talking.
“Books were there… when I found a friend who loved books as much as I did and we could read together or spend an afternoon running our fingers over the spines.” -Mandy Shunnarah, from I Don’t Do It For You: A Reader’s Manifesto via her blog, Off The Beaten Shelf
This was us – we could spend hours rambling around bookstores like Chamblin’s Uptown in downtown Jacksonville. I will always miss my book buddy.
Anyone who lives in or has visited Jacksonville should recognize these pictures of Friendship Fountain. The first picture is actually a postcard. I remember as a kid seeing the fountain at night with the multi-colored lights shining in the waters and thinking it was so cool. We would take relatives there when they visited, and years later I took my own kids. And, then even more years later I took my niece, and finally my grandson.
Here’s a little fountain history: It was designed by the same guy who designed the Hayden Burns Library, another staple of my childhood. When the fountain opened in 1965, which was the year we moved to Jacksonville, it was the world’s largest and tallest fountain. It was refurbished in 1985, completely renovated in 2011, and it is still drawing visitors today.
For our second adventure we went to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. It’s free to get in every Tuesday from 4-9pm. It was an overcast, late afternoon when we arrived, so we headed straight for the gardens while it was still light as I wanted to take a few pictures. The gardens are along the St. Johns River, so that added to the chill. Even though it’s the dead of winter, here in Florida there are still some flowers that can bloom. The gardens are always lovely, with huge, stately oaks, manicured bushes, arbors, and interesting sculptures. There were a few groups of kids, middle schoolers and little kids, there learning about the gardens outside and the art inside.
After visiting the gift store, we headed off to find supper, ending up at Derby in the Park in the 5 Points area. We shared the Fried Green Tomato appetizer, but I could have eaten them all; I think they were the best I’ve ever had. We each got a bowl of potato soup, then split a delicious sandwich, which came with Derby Fries. I took some of these home and had them for breakfast the next morning. (Cathy took home a fried green tomato, intended for breakfast, but her son got to it first).
As my days in Jacksonville seem to be numbered, my friend, Cathy, and I plan to do as many things together as we can before we go. I was going to call these Free Tuesdays, since we are trying to do things around town that are free, but since often there will be lunch or other purchases along the way, I decided on Terrific Tuesdays. Not too original, I know.
For our first adventure last week, we headed downtown with the goal of eating underground at Benny’s Sandwich Shop. We found a parking meter (yay) and had lots of change, so we were set. Entering though the Atlantic Building, former Atlantic Bank, we followed the signs down the stairs. I spotted an unmarked hallway, which we went down and discovered the old vault. So cool! There was also a large scrapbook there, with news clipping coming unglued, that dated back to about 1972. All the articles revolved around the Regency Square Mall. It seemed like an odd thing to find there, but we enjoyed browsing through it for awhile. Then we headed to Benny’s, where the service is friendly and the food good and inexpensive.
After lunch, we met a very gracious security guard. She directed us back down into the tunnel, after she pointed out the spot where we would pop up across the street. The tunnel felt more like a hallway as we passed several underground offices. Sure enough, we came up to the surface at the opposite corner. I went back to feed the meter and then we headed to Chamblin’s Uptown Bookstore. On the way we decided to detour through the public library. We hit every level, taking pictures while in the courtyard on the second floor.
I keep a list of books to look for on my phone, but had no success finding any at Chamblin’s . I did, however, find a book by one of the authors on my list. It sounded so interesting that I bought it, to add the bazillion books at home that I haven’t read yet. Proof that I have an addiction to used bookstores.
It was perfect weather for our first Terrific Tuesday! Can’t wait for more!
I haven’t done a throwback post in a while, so here goes.
I found this postcard in an antique store a few years back. This is how Hemming Park/ Plaza used to look. It has been redone once or twice since this picture was taken. I like the picture because it shows the May Cohens department store. This is where I worked the summer I got engaged. I worked upstairs in the credit department. I felt so grown up working downtown. Some days I would take my lunch and eat in the lunch room where the TV was always showing “The Young and the Restless”. It was from the snack machine there that I had my first Lorna Doone shortbread cookies and I still love them. On occasion I would venture out with someone to eat somewhere nearby. There were other large department stores down the street such as Ivey’s and Furchgott’s . One of them had a nice restaurant inside.
After I got married I still worked there. We only had one car so I rode the bus. Hemming Park was the main hub where all the buses went, so it was convenient. I enjoyed riding the bus, actually. I was on the phone a large part of the day, listening to customer complaints. I got a headache nearly every day, so I was glad not to have to drive home.
May Cohens was in the St, James Building which is now City Hall. I was there a few weeks ago with my mother-in-law. It was so strange to be inside because it looks completely different now.
I love the history of old buildings and it’s fun having this connection and the memories of how downtown Jacksonville used to be. Some things change for the better, some for the worse. I hope these beautiful old buildings stay around for a very long time.