Many years ago, before I had children, I was fortunate to go to work at a place called Dairy's Madonna Gardens that just happened to be right around the corner from my house. So nice! Being able to walk to work. I was hired as the manager of the flower shop in this nursery, although it wasn't a very big place and even part time hours were spent many times just babysitting the landscape and being the body in that part of the nursery when the boss lady wasn't around. Big title for a small job, but it was a nice place to work.
The nursery was owned by a couple named May and Frank Dairy (both deceased now, how sad). It was positioned on the main street of town and had been there as long as anyone could remember, although I'm not sure May and Frank owned it the entire time. As one walked in the main gate of the property there was a nice large pond with a little waterfall and a statue of The Madonna; I am assuming that was where that part of the name came from. I imagine it came with the nursery and was significant to the previous owners because neither May nor Frank were very religious. But it made a nice setting (Frank used that area to display the beautiful hanging baskets) and I suppose the wisdom of keeping the familiar name for business purposes played itself out in return local business.
It was while working at this nursery that I met Jerry. Jerry was the manager of the nursery end of the business and worked full time being much busier than I ever was. He was pleasant and helpful and made it his business to get to know the plants and the particulars about them and the weed killers and foods and seeds that we sold. The customers liked him a lot and asked for him by name when he was out in the greenhouse watering or transplanting and not there to greet them as they walked in. We (or should I say he) didn't have much time to sit around and chat but as I got to know him I learned some things about him. He was a Youth Pastor at a local small church (I never asked, but I imagine many of those hours were volunteer as he was not supported financially by the church) and had gone to school to become a Pastor. He and his wife, Nancy, had been married the same year my husband and I got married: 1975.
In the fall of 1979, while Doug was out of town, Jerry and Nancy asked me over for dinner one night. Nancy and I went on to be best friends (yes, she's the one I speak of every so often). Nancy was pregnant with her son, Jordan, who was born that December.
That same year I became pregnant with Jennifer and left Dairy's to work at a flower shop in downtown San Luis Obispo. But early in 1980 Nancy and Jerry moved to live in a house on the nursery property and they were now just a block away. Our two oldest children grew up together and it wasn't long before I had David and then Nancy had Helen. We had great times together, but that's for another blog :)
After a couple of years, Jerry accepted a job as Head Pastor for the Assembly of God Church in Taft, CA which was only an hour and 45 minutes away, but it seemed like my best friends were moving to the other side of the world. I would go visit periodically but it just wasn't the same as having them in the next block.
Thirty three years have gone by now since Jerry and I met. He has left the pastorate and now works for Youth for Christ in Bakersfield. And in those 33 years Jerry has become more a part of our family than he knows. He has always been there when we needed him: visiting sick family members and performing the wedding ceremonies for both David and Joscelyn and Jennifer and Paul. He greets me with a hug and tells me how much he loves me and has continued to be a man people ask for by name and want to talk to. I have always been so glad that he became a part of my family.
Last year, as I was at a quilting retreat I attend in Buellton, CA every January, I met a man, also there at the retreat, from Bakersfield. He was involved in a youth quilting program I knew my friend Nancy was sometimes involved with. I asked him if he knew or had ever met Jerry. He said to me, "Oh, yes! I know Jerry. What a gracious man!" I thought to myself "Exactly!" That's a perfect way to describe Jerry ~ gracious.
Happy Belated Birthday, my friend!