A Gift Called Wanda

Having worked in a salon for seven years, I’ve had the opportunity to become friendly with many people whom I never would have otherwise met. It’s always a pleasure to see a regular client arrive for her weekly (or bi-weekly) appointment, and over the years I learn so much about their private lives: their family, friends, what makes them happy, what ticks them off…all kinds of things.

These clients become a part of the salon’s fabric.

Each of us has our own favorite clients. There are a few clients, however, who are on everyone’s list. Margy was one of them. I wrote about Margy when she passed away three years ago in a combined tribute to her and my late grandmother.

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to another salon-wide favorite this week, and it was heartbreaking.

Wanda, who has been coming to the salon for about twenty years, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, from cancer. She was just getting her nails done two weeks ago, and everything was fine. Less than a week later, she was gone. Her passing hit everybody hard.

Wanda was fun. She loved life, she loved to laugh, and she was downright saucy when it came to her sense of humor. Her arrival at the salon each and every Tuesday morning around eleven o’clock was similar in ceremony to the arrival of Norm Peterson at Cheers, without the beer.

She had, over the past several years, become very close with two of the nail technicians. She and her husband were almost like an extra set of grandparents to them, taking them out to dinner sometimes, bringing both of them coffees from Starbucks when she only had an appointment with one of them, and even attending the wedding of one of them, which took place more than five hundred miles away.

Wanda and her husband were, like so many other folks in their seventies, completely against having a computer in their home. They pooh-poohed the idea of email, and indeed communicated “the old fashioned way”, by using a PHONE. Though Wanda knew more about what was going on in the world than the average person, it wasn’t because she was on cnn.com or msnbc.com: it was because she watched the news on television and read the newspaper daily.

She had definite opinions on things like “Dancing with the Stars”, too. We could always count on her to come in with a critique and a guess about who would be the next going home.

Something Wanda was known for was her extreme sense of generosity and–related–the way she wrapped gifts. I tried to find a picture somewhere on the internet that would represent how fancy and extravagant her gifts looked, but couldn’t find anything that I felt did them justice. Her gifts were wrapped in beautiful, high-quality paper, had perfect, creased folds, and included embellishments like gorgeous ribbons, flowers, wired rhinestones, and the like. A gift from Wanda was so beautiful that you would take it into your hands, stare at it for several minutes, and then ask if you really had to open it. Of course the answer would be “Yes!”, because Wanda loved to see the faces of her recipients when they carefully opened the packages (all the while being reminded not to tear the paper or wrinkle the ribbon so she could possibly reuse it) only to find something inside that was well-thought out and the perfect present. The gift inside as well as the packaging is the best metaphor I can come up with for her life. Wanda always made her feelings very clear to those she cared about by her thoughtfulness, her words, and her actions. She brought a smile to everyone who came in contact with her.

I consider it a gift to have known her.