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'Teresa' by Kam Rigas

Today, after months of promising myself, I finally gave Teresa her set of earrings along with a necklace and bracelet. I knew Teresa loved hand-crafted items. For a special person, a special gift - a complete set of jewelry - made with care and love.

Teresa, my oldest friend was my consult-on-any-subject guru. When macramé was the rage, I pleaded with her to teach me how to make huge hanging planters. I would, as usual, leave it half-finished and she would invariably complete it for me.

After macramé, I dove into origami and deluged Teresa with phone calls.

"I'm coming over now, Teresa. This damn diagram kept me up all night. You have to figure it out for me," I'd call in desperation.

My ADD personality soon tired of origami and I jumped into clay modeling. Teresa made beautiful sculptures and I wanted her to teach me.

Teresa advised me on more than just crafts. When I wanted to find out how a skirt would drape, if towels were a good buy, why my children ate what she cooked and found it delicious, or if I just wanted to bitch about the world - I called Teresa.

Thanks to Teresa's green thumb, I also had exotic plants in my garden. Once I saw a jasmine shrub; the fragrant flowers had double petals. Indian women string the buds to wear in their hair.

"Teresa," I begged. "I must have that. All Indian homes in Malaysia have them."

Wreaths Adorning Memorial Wall, Venice, Italy

She went up to the owner of the house, and asked if she could have a cutting.

"A small one," she said—very friendly and polite.

The owner retorted - like a Kew gardens expert. "It won't grow - it only grows from roots."

Teresa snipped a tiny twig anyway. She took it home, telling me that when the plant was ready, growing and big enough (so I couldn't kill it), she would give it to me. I still have that shrub gracing the entrance of the house.

She was also my buffer when the children drove me crazy. I still remember the day she walked in and caught me yelling at the kids.

"See, Teresa, I run a hotel here. One wants chicken and the other wants meat, and now neither will eat!"

My son and daughter glared at me with arms crossed. Teresa looked amused. She didn't even bother asking the children what was wrong with their food.

"Okay," she said, smiling and joking with the children. "Let me taste it."

After a spoonful, she made a face and declared, "I wouldn't eat it either. It has absolutely no salt. No taste!"

My children gave Teresa grateful looks. They took to hinting how delicious Teresa's food tasted.

I am a vegetarian. I have never eaten or even tasted chicken, fish or meat of any kind. I didn't want to force my plant-eating habits on the children so I cooked meat for them, but I'd be damned if I had to taste it too.

I returned home to Brazil, after a long absence, older but certainly not with any newfound wisdom. However, I had taught myself a new craft, making jewelry. A week after I arrived I began to make a jewelry set in shades of blue - Teresa's favorite color. I didn't like the first one I designed, so I made a second, and a third. Always finding excuses why it just didn't seem right. I decided that as soon as I completed the set, I would call and surprise her. She would not be expecting me, thinking I was still away.

A month went by, then two, three, and four, and I still hadn't finished. I still hadn't called Teresa. Frustrated, angry and guilty that I hadn't called her yet, I spoke to myself, the procrastinator, commitment dodger, "Move your arse and call!"

I called - she was not home. Ah ha, I smiled—took it as an omen that the Goddess of Forgotten Crafts was sending me a message. Finish what you start. Back to work - the fifth month and many, many attempts to complete it. It was almost done. I made an origami box, lined it with tissue and imagined the surprise and delight on Teresa's face. The winner, after a long journey of fighting conflicting emotions, was coming to greet her with the booty.

Very early this morning, I took my gift to Teresa. I had stayed up all night to finish it. Very, very gently I laid it on the freshly dug earth, amid the many flowers, some already wilted. Teresa died and was buried yesterday.


Notes from the author Kam Rigas

I wish this was a story of my imagination. My friend Teresa whom I had known for 27 years died yesterday, April 25, 2005. This is in memory of Teresa Bozinis.

Oh yes, I know...if I wait a little more I might write a better story, sing a better tune, make a better impression, dance with a lighter step. I'll tell you what I do know - I know better than to wait for that magic moment.

A half-finished necklace made with love and given to her would have pleased Teresa a lot more than all this waiting, and excuses. Friends forgive. I would have liked to hear it from her though.

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