Recently, a message appeared from one of my college roommates, triggered, she indicated, by an article in The Wall Street Journal.
Two of my roommates at George Washington University became super stars. Dr. Mary Guindon earned a Ph.D and chaired a department at Johns Hopkins University for a decade of her stellar career and published books on women and stress.
The other star is referred to as “Charleston’s Grande Dame,” author Nathalie Dupree. I have been reminded of the popularity of her cookbooks for years - Shrimp and Grits for instance - and have been treated like a star by her fans simply because I was “the roomie.”
Our dorm at GWU was at 19th and G Streets in D.C. - just four blocks from the White House. Downtown’s fabulous department stores were just beyond that magnificent home. I never lost my sense of wonder taking that familiar route to shop.
than hearing from someone dear to our hearts
after a long interlude.
On the day I decided to buy bedspreads and curtains, I was on a mission! Our dorm room was spacious but bare. It could be beautiful, and I was going to see to it and surprise my roommate.
Would that I could credit my student poverty (which was real enough) for my choice of those inexpensive, matching curtains and spreads with purple flowers that shouted for attention. But, alas, to be honest, my poor taste thought they were just great!
I was studying in the corner of the room while waiting to surprise Nathalie with our new … décor. I heard her footsteps and couldn’t wait to see how thrilled she would be.
Nathalie burst into the room, coming to a sudden horrified halt and I saw her face as she exclaimed, “Oh my God!” As her eye caught a glimpse of me in the corner, this loving roommate never missed a beat, adding, “It’s so beautiful!”
Nan, as I called her then, was unlike anyone I’d ever met. My sister Ann still remembers that Nan bought her 10 dime store rings when visiting us in New England. Ann was 11 years old then and absolutely thrilled and recalls that gift still. Who buys a kid that many rings? Nan.
She was more fun than anyone in the dorm – anyone anywhere actually. When she visited me in Chesapeake, she’d take me to dinner at a restaurant’s fall menu opening and I’d come away with a signed copy of Death by Chocolate by Maurice Saulnier!
Nan dropped famous names... because she was married to them (Jack Bass) or went to high school with them (Chuck Robb) or any number of celebrities. She knew them. When they say Nathalie Dupree, they are dropping names.
We had been close for decades, until I did something so careless 10 years ago that it changed our relationship. I did not expect it would mend as there was no way to undo what I had done, and I consider myself an optimist.
It was that kind person who put a relationship above personal taste all those years ago who reached out after many silent years. I am blessed once again with a dear friend, and I am grateful.
Thank you, Nathalie. You are well named the Grand Dame.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - 10 Shopper Magazines, Doctor to Doctor Magazine and Main Street - The Business to Business Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 37 years.