Wolf Brand Chillin'
I am not all surprised when I went searching for a picture to link to those three words above that I would be met with serendipity in the form of an obituary. When my best friend in college passed away she was 22. Before her death, she was simply, amazingly alive. Everything I wasn't, she was. Outgoing, the good kind of ridiculous, and in every breath so full of love and life. In meeting her, I met parts of myself. It was surreal to be standing next to her casket in utter silence. I felt all alone in the room until her mother came in and when she held me there was nothing in me capable of stopping the sadness. Nothing. I could not imagine her loss. I could not imagine mine but there it was swathed in silk and gold and peace.
Our very first conversation went a little lovingly like this:
Her: What are you looking at, Bitch?
Me: Nothing, Asshole.
My friend's laughter ensued. Apparently, I was not convincing. She made me say it again with conviction. I did and, frankly, it felt satisfying. We bonded. She was from Venezuela and had gone to military school in the Louisiana. She loved Mardi Gras and neatly folded towels. She was a notorious liar but in a good way. Mostly harmless and often a stream of consciousness that if you paid close enough attention you could easily follow and join in on. She found it hysterical that I was the local Miss __________. My family was poor and living in another state when I chose to enter and won a decent scholarship through a well know pageant organization. I was still on my tour-of-duty when we met. She was right, it was hysterical. Seriously, how many times can you sing to creepy old men in funny hats?*
Her: Lion's Club, again?
One of her main goals in life, after meeting me, was to get me stoned. She wanted Miss Could You Sing That Again to sing some high notes. I reminded her I was an Alto and faithfully continued to engaged in goodness until the day came when I handed it all off to Mindy SomethingOrAnother.
Her: Let's celebrate! I made you brownies.
Me: OH! You shouldn't have!
Knowing how much I loved chocolate, my friend made me a big batch. How thoughtful of her, literally. They were so delicious. I couldn't get enough. And every time I told her that, I thought she was going to pee her pants. Then they were gone. Looking back, I recall only my own stream of consciousness flooding with bowls, spoons, pans and ripping labels off of Wolf Brand Chili cans. We were staying with a friend whose dad had recently divorced and was gone often to meet up with potential wives. He had left behind a stocked pantry, a set of car keys, a roll of cash...and a can opener. And so, we ate.
In spite of the shadiness of that night, my friend's heart was pure. Happiness was her modus operandi something very foreign to me at the time. I didn't laugh much and I worried often. As a seeming caregiver since birth, I had no context for someone like her, a free spirit moving through the world. I had never laughed so hard, so often than when I was in her presence. And I learned how to fold a towel with precision.
After her death, and what would later be reinforced by my grandmother's red balloons, I learned that it was alright to expect to be met with serendipity. So, not surprising, for months after her death, I began to see Wolf Brand Chili cans everywhere! Just a few examples:
In a cabinet at the hair salon amongst shampoos and conditioners.
In the back of an old flatbed truck pulling up next to me at a stoplight.
Sitting solo atop a pile of cans collected for a food drive.
In the library next to a loaf of bread (forgive me bread, if I missed your significance :)
the strangest one was the best one...
In the days before cell phones and GPS (unfathomable, I know), I was lost on a lone Texas highway. I didn't have a map, honestly, it wouldn't have helped. I'm bad with directions. I was getting nervous because I was low on fuel, I had my little 18 month old with me and the sun was beginning to set. Feeling desperate, I asked for a sign. I got one about a mile up the road. Out in the middle of nowhere was a large Wolf Brand Chili sign. And this is what it said. Beneath it was a more rustic sign giving direction to a local diner serving the steamy stuff and a little petrol.
Like my friend, my days of Wolf Brand Chili have also been laid to rest but I know somewhere between this world and the next my friend continues to encourage me to be bold and feisty.
*Admittedly, not all of them were creepy nor did all of them wear hats but there is truth in the saying that one bad bean can spoil the stew...well, you know what I mean.