We all have people who contribute to us one way or another. I’ve been fortunate to have many, many people in my life who I could tag the contribution label to for impacting my life, mostly in very positive ways.
Heather Carri was one of those people. I met her in the autumn of 1974 shortly after I moved to England. Within the year, she had a new title: sister-in-law. Heather was the younger and only sister of my former husband and aunt to our two daughters.
Over the years, we created a fun exchange, gifting each other with totally unnecessary, yet, clever, small kitchen tools for birthdays and Christmas. She gave me a butter curler. Who knew such a thing existed? She also gave me a melon baller with difference sizes on each end. Then there was the plastic egg yolk separator. I get a kick out of the ceramic blackbird you set in the middle of a pie before putting the top crust on to bake. It has a hole in the mouth to let the steam out of the pastry while cooking. Many other kitchen tools followed which I still use today. It seemed like we were each trying to find the most unique item that would have our meals stand out with a special presentation, especially for entertaining.
However, those fun kitchen gadgets weren’t the contribution I’m speaking of. I remember how lost I felt the first couple of years when I went from having a terrific job as chief photographer of a daily newspaper in the U.S. to feeling like a
“nobody” as an unemployed wife at home with nothing much to do and no friends in the U.K.
Heather welcomed me into her family and her country. She soon had a young family of her own so we had that in common as well.
Her training in catering meant that she could whip up a meal for 50 or 100 people without batting an eye while I was learning the tricks of setting a table at which all the parts were cooked and ready to eat at the same time, no small feat.
In addition to Heather’s culinary talents, she was also an avid dog owner, gardener, incredible seamstress, knitter and in time, she learned Honiton Lace Making, the kind made on a cushion with lots of wooden bobbins. I have three lovely pieces Heather made and gave me over time: an exquisite butterfly which I have hanging in our bedroom, a circular paperweight on our bookshelf in the living room and a delicate rose broach. I cherish each one of them all these years later.
Almost five years ago, we met in Barcelona when I visited my daughter who was living there at the time. She flew over with her partner, Mike. Her daughter, Jenni, and son, Gregor, flew in from Germany. It was so great to spend that time together.
I was sad to learn Heather died just two days after her birthday last week. She had cancer and made the choice not to have invasive treatments like chemo and radiation. She chose how she lived and she chose how she died. That is just one example of her strength.
I will be forever grateful to Heather for her kindness, friendship, acceptance and welcoming me to a new country. I am also grateful to be able to “attend” her memorial service on Monday thanks to live-streaming.