The Glenda Project

When I was in first grade, living in Niagara Falls, I was a Brownie.   We did the typical Brownie things.  We made a “sit upon” which basically was a recycled shower curtain folded over newspaper that we loop stitched around the edges to hold it in place.  It was used to literally sit upon rather than sit on the floor, or grass, or whatever.  I had that thing for years it seems.

One of the more interesting activities was being told we would be participating with a troop in Australia and become pen pals with a Brownie there.  Australia sounded very exotic to my six-year-old imagination and I thought the girl’s name I would get would be equally exotic.  I was handed a slip of paper about the size of a fortune from a cookie that read, “Glenda Dunstan.”  That did not sound very exotic to me and I remember asking if I could try again.  I was told no.  I guess she already had my name too.  Okay….Glenda it is.  Our assignment was to write an introductory letter to this person and let chance take it from there.  This all occurred somewhere around 1969.  Mail to and from Australia took about two weeks, each way.  My mom proofread my letter making sure it was in my best handwriting and there were no errors.  I do remember having to redo it a time or two.  It was quite exciting to receive that first letter.  Everyone in the family had to read it, look at the stamps, note Glenda’s interesting handwriting and way of speaking (“Mum” for Mom, “holiday” for vacation, etc.).

And a friendship was formed….

Fast forward 41 years (OMG!) and we are STILL friends!  There have been segments of years where our writing waxed and waned.  We have spoken on the telephone three times during the years.  Yes, she has an adorable accent.  Interestingly enough, she thinks I have an accent.  When the brush fires were ravaging Southern Australia last year, I had to call to make sure she and her family were okay.  She lives in Melbourne and luckily were still south of where most of the fires were.  She was very touched to know I was worried for her and even more surprised that America was following along with what was going on Down Under

During the years we each married (she is now Glenda Morris), had children, lost loved ones, survived illnesses (Glenda is a ten-plus-year breast cancer survivor).  We now take advantage of the internet and read each other’s responses within hours of writing.  Australia is nine hours ahead of us, so if she is up late and I am up early, we can almost “instant message.”  

In less than one month, I will meet my Australian Brownie pen pal for the very first time.  She is traveling to North America (Canada and the US) and will stay with me and my family for seven days!!!  This is a miracle to me.  It seems almost surreal….that on one hand, I feel I have known her since childhood, but on the other hand, have never really met her at all.  What will she think of our American ways?  What are American ways, anyways?  And how do they differ from Australian ways?

This has spurred a flurry of activity at the Bass household.  I live in a modest 50’s style cottage.  It is tiny and adorable.  There has always been a list of “wouldn’t it be nice to do this to that area” that has, up to about three months ago remained an item on the list.  The list now has a name:  The Glenda Project.   The back porch is now an almost completely enclosed sunroom.  The laundry room has been rearranged with a new hot water heater added.  A new 12 x 12 shed has been added to the backyard across from the chicken coop.  The kitchen pantry has been removed and a very cool antique armoire stands in its place.  (Only some…okay one… of the home’s occupants thinks it is very cool.)  It is not perfect, but that is part of its charm.  If I wanted perfect, I would have bought a new piece.  (The French door to the right is now gone as that is where the sunroom is.)

(I forgot to mention that I was told this HAS to be the LAST old piece of furniture I EVER bring into our house.  Now how am I supposed to accomplish that?  Maybe he was kidding….)

My brief mention of the projects above do nothing to describe the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that have accompanied them.  The sunroom was half engulfed in old termite eaten boards and had to be completely removed and replaced before the back half of the house fell off.  Why that actually never happened is beyond me.  My husband tried very hard to cut his thumb off with the table saw.  An ER visit and seven stitches later, he was back at it.  Exterior CBS walls had to be drilled and chipped to accommodate the new placement of the dryer vent.  And still the work continues….

Maybe one of the Australian ways is not to worry so much over what kind of panty food is kept in or if all the walls are freshly painted or if the almost 50-year- old wood floor has just the right sheen to it.  It certainly seems to be an American way, though–or at least this American’s way.  As the time of Glenda’s arrival quickly approaches, the list still seems insurmountable.  My attitude toward that list has relaxed somewhat.  At some point, the focus will shift to what we will do to make my exotic Aussie pal feel welcomed.  In the meantime, I still have some painting to do!


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