Christmas 1986

On December 23, 1986 I was seventeen years old. My parents had split and I was living with friends in Fairport, NY. For about a dozen reasons, I wasn’t doing well. That afternoon I was shopping in Wegmans and someone called my name with great cheer. It was Betsy Larson, the mother of a former girlfriend’s best friend.

“How have you been — oh, not good, I see.” (I hadn’t yet spoken.) I told Betsy a little about what had been up and down with me – it couldn’t have been much, because we weren’t much more than acquaintances. As I recall, we were standing in the front of the store near the checkout. It was snowing. “Wait here,” she said. “I have to call Mike.”

In a moment Betsy returned. “Go pack your things. Mike is going to come get you. You’re moving in with us.”

I don’t know what she was thinking, or what intuition guided her to take charge of my life in that moment. I do know there were as many presents for me under their tree as if I had been a member of the family for years. (Including a suit – Betsy measured me the evening I arrived and didn’t say why.) It was a memorable Christmas. I lived with the Larsons for the next 18 months and in many ways I’m still a member of the family.

Betsy died on February 10, 2002. I know I wasn’t the only peron who was affected by her impulsive generosity. As I look out my window at the new snow this morning, I remember her fondly. She always called it like she saw it, like it or not. Once I quit my job so I could move into the U of R blackbox theater for two weeks to put on a show with friends. She was furious, but she attended the show and wrote a 2-page rave review that I still have. I miss her.