I’m not even sure how we started talking to them. I know it was shortly after we arrived at a friend’s 55th birthday party.
The party was an extremely casual affair. The theme was 1957 – the year our host was born. She’d said to wear vintage clothing from that year. Or not. However we felt comfortable.
I wouldn’t say Karen and I went vintage, but I did manage to snag a fedora – something I’ve been looking for for some time – Saturday afternoon. The problem, you see, is that I have an uncommon – OK, large – head. (I like to say it’s because I have a giant brain.) But there isn’t a OSFA all out there that will nuzzle my noggin properly. I finally found a few XLs, and believe me, most of them wouldn’t even work. Garrett was pretty patient while I tried about 20 on before finding one that looked like it was made for me. Check it – and me – out here.
We were touring Patricia’s house, checking out the cool 1957-era memorabilia and trivia she’d placed throughout – for example, there was a pitcher of Tang – invented that year – on one table. And hey, I’ll admit it, I was also checking out the food and drink.
I’m pretty sure that’s where we met Sandy, though we wouldn’t find out her name until later.
I’m not even sure – though Karen probably knows – what her connection was to Patricia: I think she might have been either her or Sergio’s neighbor (I’m pretty happy to know someone named Sergio, by the way). She started talking to us right off the bat about Sint Maarten. And when I say bat, that’s what I thought at first: Old Bat.
She was 75ish, and, in the spirit of the party, wearing a leather jacket with the name Pinky stenciled on the back. Her husband, Bill, whom we would meet later, had on a dark blue suit, sunglasses and the skinniest tie imaginable that didn’t double as a string. His shiny black leather shoes, he told us later, were the kind that got him in trouble with the nuns back in school – they accused him of using them to look up the girls’ dresses.
Sandy told us they’d been to Sint Maarten for 17 or 18 straight years – they had a time-share – and had loved it until this year. Things had changed, she said. My Snob-o-meter was going off at full volume here and I started tuning her out. Mistake.
Then she mentioned how her kids were jealous that they went. This piqued my interest again – the boys have been a bit resentful about our recent travels. Sandy said her oldest – who is 52 and, as it turns out, might live just around the corner from us – was particularly peeved that he hadn’t gotten to go when he was younger. “Hell,” she said, “we didn’t have a pot to piss in in those days.”
That’s when she had us.
She was blonde, at least on the surface, still pretty despite her wear, and a real pistol. She had a scarf around her neck, 50s-bad-girl style, and I think was wearing jeans. I never saw her without a smile all night.
We moved on and talked to other folks, particularly Jenni and Sander, and talked about our kids and my new job and what Karen had been up to since she and Jenni had been colleagues and many other things. It wasn’t until the night was winding down that we really reconnected with Bill and Sandy.
Bill, a tall guy who was still striking with his white crewcut and lined face, was sitting on the couch opposite us, taking a break. Karen went over and sat with him – that’s when we found out their names and enough of their history to make them our heroes. Click here for a photo of us.
Sandy had told us they had eight children and had even mentioned that the youngest was 22. Half lived in Charlotte, she said, and half lived in New York.
What she didn’t tell us was that half were adopted. Bill did. He said they started foster parenting after they had four children of their own. They took in children who had been horribly neglected and abused. He described some of the cases to us – I can’t bear to repeat them.
And they soon decided they had to do more than be foster parents. Through great effort – because the state was always trying to reunite these kids with their birth parents – they adopted four of these children over the years. Let’s get real, they saved these children.
Toward the end of the night, a couple of couples started dancing. Bill and Sandy went out to Sam Cooke’s Twisting the Night Away. And they were good. I’m not sure what dance they were doing, but there were twirls and hand exchanges and complicated – to me, anyway – footwork. They were terrific.
They stayed out for another Sam Cooke song, Cupid. This one they clenched tighter. They looked one another in the eye and there was no one else in the neighborhood at that moment. They clenched tightly, petted one another. Their passion was undeniable.
Watching them, I was so happy I almost cried. These people loved another, loved others, loved life and lived it.
They are my new heroes.
“A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares.”
– Debi Mazar (who knew she ever said something so profound?)