A year ago, I lost a wonderful friend and mentor. She’s been on my mind a lot recently as the one year anniversary of her passing arrived, and I wanted to take a moment to share a bit about her with the community who follows this blog, because I know if she was still with us today, she’d be my most avid reader.
Susan Ludes was a friend of my mom’s before I was born. She was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up knowing her as one of my mom’s best friends, and definitely her best Scrabble opponent, and most of the visits that they shared were spent with the game board in the middle as they played two or three rounds over the course of an afternoon. When my brother and I were younger, we’d play with her daughter Annie while Mom and Sue chatted and quibbled over who got to use the triple word score and who they thought was winning that particular game.
What I will always remember about Sue was her kindness and her creativity. She remembered every single birthday and always sent a card, and that card always had a personal touch. She often made the whole thing herself, but if she chose something store-bought, she added captions, extra words, thought bubbles, little doodles, anything to make it special. She made a gorgeous set of needlepoint Christmas stockings for me and my brother that still hang on my mom’s mantle every year. Her gift wrapping skills were extraordinary – I vividly remember one birthday as a child where she brought me an Easter basket full of tubes of acrylic paint and paintbrushes, all wrapped up in orange and green tissue paper to look like carrots. She packaged gift cards up in old film cans for my brother when he was in film school, she sent me and my husband on a scavenger hunt all over my mom’s house to find a cash gift one Christmas. She put thought into everything she did, and she made everything with love.
As I grew up, I appreciated Sue’s efforts more and more, and I found myself attempting to emulate her when I was old enough to plan parties. Sue hosted a number of epic themed birthday parties for Annie over the years, and they were spectacularly creative. I was excited to see her reaction to all of the things I made by hand for my wedding, and for each of the birthday parties I threw for the kids. She was the only adult who wanted to take home a hobby horse from G’s cowboy shindig, and I loved to see how delighted she was by all the details. I imagine it took her back to those years when her own daughter was young, when she too was up all night crafting for an event – and she did it in an era before Pinterest, when there wasn’t a simple way to gather a million ideas from all over the world and then share the results when you were finished. She didn’t have Photoshop or Illustrator to create all of her paper products, she didn’t have a color laser printer or a digital camera or an Amazon Prime account or the myriad powers of Google. I will never forget when she came in and greeted me at our circus party – she grabbed me by the arms and said “That invitation! I just… if only I could have had Photoshop! I could have been amazing!” And I laughed and told her that she WAS amazing, and that she was even more amazing because she did so many fabulous things without any of tools I have today.
I was reminded of Sue again this weekend when I attended a birthday party for one of G’s friends. It was a lovely Peter Pan-themed event full of the kind of awesome details that I just go nuts over – handmade Peter Pan hats and “pixie dust” necklaces for all the kids, a glorious handmade cake in the shape of a pirate ship, a Peter Pan piñata, and Peter Pan himself even showed up to make balloon swords for all the kids and entertain them with stories, activities, and a little bit of balloon fencing. The mom of the birthday girl and I shared a bit of a laugh when she said that her family always tells her she “went overboard again,” and I commiserated (because how many times have I heard THAT?).
But you know what? Last year, I sat at Sue’s memorial service and listened to Annie’s eulogy for her, and among the many wonderful things she had to say about her mother, she talked about those birthday parties from her childhood, and about the cards her mom used to send, and about the time she and her mom made a Ninja Turtles playset that was even better than the one she wanted to buy in the store. All of those efforts didn’t go unappreciated or unnoticed. Her daughter remembers, her husband remembers, my mom remembers, I remember, and anyone who was lucky enough to know Sue remembers her craftiness and her creativity.
So, take heart. It’s not a waste, moms. Those over-the-top first birthday plans, those rainy day crafts, those sweet handmade valentines, those coordinating Halloween costumes. They become a part of your legacy, something that your kids will remember about you and about their childhoods. So embrace your artsy side, and keep on sharing it with your family and your friends, because you never know who you might be inspiring with your efforts. They love it, because they love you, and they will remember.
Sue, you are greatly missed. Thanks for all the memories.