May 3, 2008

how could you ever say no to what she told you to do?

From Tracy Spence Brown:

I just found out about Debbie last week. I haven't seen her since high school. She graduated 2 years before me, but would still call me on her trips home from UNC during my last two years of school. I'm sure that you don't remember me as Debbie had so many friends. We met when I stayed at your home for a weekend when Marna was your exchange student and when Debbie and I were close.

Debbie, well, she was...Debbie. She was able to persuade my dad to buy me my first 35mm camera in 1985. She had only met him once - at a Reynolds basketball game - and told him that it was a hobby that I needed to foster. She told him that I was creative and had an "eye" for all things photography and that it would be an absolute shame if I did not have the tools to develop my talent. My father lived in another state and I would not see him for months after this conversation. The next time he came into town, almost 9 months after Debbie told him that I must have this camera, he appeared...Nikon FG and Sigma zoom in hand. That was the Debbie I knew and remember now. With her beautiful smile and amazing eyes, how could you ever say no to what she told you to do?

I remember her as a cheerleader...dressing up as David Bowie one homecoming...and as someone who talked me in to trying out for varsity cheerleading at the end of my sophomore year. When the results were read over the loudspeaker and my name was called for the squad, she was standing outside of my geometry class waving to me through the window in the door...big smile and two thumbs up.

My parents went out of town one weekend and I stayed at your house. Deb and I made cookies...she made the best cookies in the world. Everyone there made me feel like I was part of your family, if only for the weekend. My favorite part, though, was riding with her in her bright yellow MG convertible. She always made me feel like I was the most important person in the world, even though I knew that I was not. Regardless, after all of these years, that's what still sticks with me.

When I was about to graduate, I talked with Debbie briefly about college. She encouraged me to apply at Savannah College of Art and Design. I was not as sure of my talents in design and photography as she was, but I did keep her encouragement in the back of my mind. Eventually after trying my hand at traditional college, I applied at SCAD, attended, and graduated in 1993. I moved to Seattle for a while working as a graphic designer. I had a very successful career and often wondered if I would have made that college choice if Debbie wouldn't have encouraged it.

I never saw, spoke to, or heard from Debbie after the spring of 1988, but I have thought about her often. I even saw her sister Kim down here in Savannah briefly in the late 80's and she gave me an update on her life as well as Debbie's travels. I have always wondered what happened to both of them, and now, through this blog, I see that they both live on in their amazing daughters who each carry their mother's smiles.

Even after 20 years of not seeing Debbie, the pain of her death resonates in my heart. Debbie was just that strong...that much of a force...a feeling that you never let go of...the optimism in all gray days. I hope that in some small way Debbie now realizes that her life touched so many people in a positive way. She was loved by me and so many others.

—Tracy, from Savannah in Georgia