An homage to my friend Pamela Jean Estes.
We've been friends since 1983 when we met at Vanderbilt University where we were students in the graduate library science program. She worked in the Science Library and, I, in the Education Library. While her family roots are from Kansas, she grew up in Arkadelphia, AR, where her father was a French professor at Ouachita Baptist University and her mother was a social studies teacher in the public schools. Jack and Bonnie Estes count as some of the loveliest people I've encountered in my life, sophisticated, kind, caring, and very multicultural, the parents of three very smart children. I think we bonded, in part, because we were both daughters of the prairie. They taught me how to drink wine, how to really drink wine.
Pamela is, like me, the middle child. By the time I met her, she had already earned a Master's in Music and had, before arriving at Vanderbilt University, taught Music in the Arkansas schools. Upon completing her MLS, she was hired at the Education Library. A few years later, she was accepted to Boston University where she earned a Masters of Divinity. I was able to visit her in Boston and, of course, we had a great time together, going to the Boston Opera, and a Boston Pops concert, and on a whaleboat tour on the Atlantic, where I struggled against sea-sickness. Her apartment overlooked Fenway Park. Since her ordination, she has served many Methodist parishes in Arkansas. She is currently the Senior Pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Magnolia, Arkansas.
You can see from the picture below that she has a huge smile and is so intelligent and generous and fun-loving. She and I spent many hours in the Vanderbilt University Libraries, studying, completing assignments, and assisting other library patrons, yet we found the time to have fun, to dine around Nashville, to explore the area, to attend the symphony concerts on the lawn, and to haunt the used bookstore just across from the Centennial Park. Once we went to see Mikhail Barysnikov dance with the ballet and, of course, when Garrison Keillor was in town, we went to see The Prairie Home Companion show. We would spend Saturday evenings sitting on her porch listening to the radio show, our link to our prairie roots. When my family members would visit, we would take them to Opryland, and, silly us, we would ride the roller coaster over and over and over, right in the front car. Once we dined at the Maxwell House restaurant, the location where Theodore Roosevelt coined the phrase "Good to the last drop." There it was she showed me how to peel a banana with cutlery, never once touching the banana. As starving graduate students, we would drive on weekends to Uncle Bud's Catfish House in Franklin, TN, and take full advantage of "all you can eat". We loved to hang out in the graduate-students-only cafe on the main campus. One time Pamela's supervisor at the Science Library (and one of our professors) invited us to dine at the exclusive Faculty Club. Needless to say, we were thrilled!
Pamela has exquisitely beautiful hand-writing and always wrote with a Waterman Pen, a fountain pen. She also wrote poetry, and for many years she sent me a handwritten letter each day, filled with news of her days in Nashville or Boston and some of her poetry.
She loves to travel and has visited all of the state capitals. She spent one year long ago living in Strasbourg, France and, at the time I met her, spoke fluent French. Bless her heart, she attempted to teach me French, but we were busy, and I was something of a dunce at that time at learning languages (still am, as it happens), to not mention distracted by the demands of the graduate program. I won't tell you some of the crazy adventures we had, lest you think we were too wild and not serious enough in our studies.
Later, she was serving a parish in Arkansas when my Mama Crook was in her last days, and whenever she would visit her parishioners who were hospitalized in Memphis, TN, she would make time to visit my beloved grandmother. When I flew to Mississippi to attend my Mama Crook's funeral sixteen years ago, Pamela met me at the country church. How blessed am I to have a friend such as she? A few years ago, we had to make the sad journey to Washington to help my husband's brother bury his daughter, and, through the miracles of Facebook, I learned that Pamela was traveling in Montana. Thus it was that we were able to meet in Butte, MT, for breakfast together, where my husband took this photo of the two of us. I hope not so many days pass before we are again together. She is a wonderful gift to the world! I love you, Pamela Jean Estes. Thank you so much for so generously sharing your gifts. You make the world a better place. Do you still use a Waterman pen?