This is Patti/Patricia/Pattirica. She’s been my bestie since high school. She’s the one who got me to leave home (West Fargo, North Dakota) at 18 and follow her and her parents to California. Unfortunately her high school boyfriend came for a visit when he realized he couldn’t live without her. They got married at the Santa Barbara City Hall and headed to Duluth, MN where he had a teaching job lined up. She left me to fend for myself in Southern California. I was broken hearted. I couldn’t even speak to her for months! It took me a while to forgive her. Actually, I don’t know if I ever did; I just learned to accept that we’d be living thousands of miles apart when back in West Fargo we’d only lived twelve houses apart on Sheyenne Street.
She was Patti in high school. At forty she decided she wanted to be called Patricia. It’s a lovely name but my tongue got tangled every time I tried to say it. It was so confusing to me that I gave up trying and started calling her Pattiricia. She didn’t mind.
After a few months went by (years? who can remember?) she started calling me Brendaricia. These pet names fall from our lips effortlessly. I’ll call her up and she’ll answer, “Hi Brendaricia.” And I’ll say, “Hi Pattiricia,” and then we talk for an hour or until the batteries wear out. Russ has joined the “ricia” club. We call him Russaricia. These names are so fun to say aloud.
Well, that’s Patricia Clure. She’s fun. It may take up to five minutes upon seeing each other again before we’re giggling over…well, not much at all! She’s that kind of friend. She came to see me this month when I was in Perham, Minnesota visiting Dad, my brother and and sister-in-law, nieces and nephews and their children. She’s just part of the family.
I want to tell you all about her but it’s impossible to decide what stories I’d share.
Would it be the night she sat up late with me at our kitchen table in West Fargo helping me write a speech I had to deliver the next day at my high school graduation ceremony? Her ideas had us both in belly laughs. In the end, it was a pretty good speech. Or the time we got the giggles sitting next to each other in a pew at Pontoppidan Lutheran Church at the Christmas Eve service and had to sneak out when snot started running from our noses from laughing so hard?
Would it be the time we were in Minneapolis when she suddenly interrupted a man sitting next to us in a coffee shop to tell him what North Dakota women were like? This handsome Minnesotan dressed in an expensive looking suit was about to expound on North Dakota women with the two ladies at his table when she decided to set him straight. It was terrifying to me the way she just jumped into that conversation. He was instantly engaged. She orchestrated the fun while I sat back admiring her.
Would it be about the time when she was visiting me in Fairfax and we were pulling the homemade vegetarian lasagna out of the oven when the pan slipped from our hands and fell upside down on the floor and she scooped the lasagna back up into the pan and we called it dinner? That was raucous fun!
Would it be about how she was my guinea pig for my business when I first got started in my career; how she gathered ladies together in Duluth who became my clients which made it easy to sneak in more and more time with her?
Or would it be more recently when Mother had her fall and was in intensive care in Fargo with a severe brain injury and she left Duluth to come be with me? Or would it be when a few weeks later I’d be sitting at Mother’s side while Mother was dying and I called Pattiricia for advice? “I don’t know what to do,” I said. She had experience; she’d been with her mother, father, and husband when they died at home. She said, “Brenda, this is a sacred time. Enter into it. Sit with her, be with her, talk to her. You’ll know what to do.” When she told me that, I settled down and settled in. I cherish that time I had with Mother and it was just like Patti said: precious and sacred, one I’d never want to have missed.
Anatomy of Pattiricia’s outfit
When we were messing around in Perham one day I asked her to be my photographic study. She reminded me of how much she hates having her picture taken but I persisted. It was like trying to distract a two-year-old. I tried to keep her engaged by sharing what I’d learned about taking photos for Instagram and Facebook. I showed her how I scope out great backgrounds. I showed her how it’s important to not cut off the feet in a photo. I kept on chattering about sun and shadows and light. I’d take photos and then show her what worked and what didn’t work about them.
Her outfit was so “Patti” and I was determined to capture it. The big bonus to me was that she’d accessorized her outfit with one of the button bracelets I made nearly thirty years ago. She was my first button bracelet customer.
I marveled at how her hat and blouse and the bracelet all shared zigzag lines. The pattern was engaging without being loud. The blouse was sheer and breezy, not stiff.
I loved the layers of striped and zigzag buttons in this mostly black bracelet and how the color black was repeated in her shoes. I loved how the last button on top of the stack of four buttons was red like her shirt, sunglasses and hat. It all tied together.
Trying to get the thinking behind how she put the outfit together
Once I’d been home a few days I called to tell her I wanted to write about her outfit. I wanted to hear her thoughts behind this outfit she’d put together.
Getting details from her was harder than finding a way to drive out of the ditch I drove into in the summer of 1970 on our way to work at Playtown, an arts and crafts park program for kids. We had the front seat filled with egg cartons. Our craft project that day was going to be making totem poles out of the egg cartons. We were both trying to find places for our empty glasses of Gorilla Milk that we drank on the way to work but the egg cartons were in the way. I didn’t know I’d driven into a ditch until Patti looked up, screamed and we noticed corn fields to the right and left of us. (Don’t tell Dad!) That’s been good for a lifetime of laughs. (Listen up kids: Don’t drink and drive!)
But she’s a natural with clothes, always has been. It was one of the things we loved doing together in high school: playing with clothes, wearing each other’s clothes, getting dressed for school dances. But we really don’t talk about clothes much anymore. She went on to make a difference in the world in meaningful ways while I dove deeper into a career in fashion and style.
She’s been a longtime activist for social causes. She spent many years in the home building arena. Her urban residential project called The Clure Project won special award for urban development. Collaborating with award-winning architect, David Salmela in Duluth, she created three houses on a hillside overlooking Lake Superior. The houses were made from sustainable materials before that that term was as popular as it is now. The houses all had the same black siding. If you are in Duluth and look up the hill you’ll see the Three Black Houses, as they’re often called. The siding material (recycled paper and resin) is the same as skateboard surfaces in parks. If you ever bought one of those black, lightweight cutting boards at Sur la Table, the picture on the packaging is from Patricia’s kitchen looking out over the drawbridge at Lake Superior. The focus on that project was sustainability and now she’s carried that over into organic farming.
Here’s what I got out of her about her outfit
All of that might explain why it was so hard to pull words out of her mouth about her outfit. It’s not what she focuses on but it’s still hard to not notice how good she is at this! Again, I persisted. Here’s what she said over a few painful minutes before I quit asking her questions:
Red is something I wear. Red lipstick is my thing. I found this top at a consignment store in Indianapolis this spring when I was on that camping trip with Nancy. I like to wear solids generally but I saw that shirt and it was lightweight and I thought it would be good to wear in hot weather, which we rarely get in Duluth. I have some blouses that get big at the bottom or are too full so I generally tuck them in. When I got home I saw my hat and thought, Oh, these two things go together. It just worked. The prints go along with my thing for modern architecture.
My clothing style is simple. It’s what you taught me years ago. I have a few pieces and everything goes with everything. I like fun and the button bracelets you made are fun. People think this one’s a watch.
She gave me sources for the pieces. Jeans are Joe’s Jeans; blouse is by Roberta Roller Rabbit; belt is Carlos Falchi, shoes are Fly London; bracelet is Brenda Kinsel, hat is Pistil. The most recent purchase was the hat from last year and the shirt from the consignment store this spring. Everything else she says is, “Old, old, old.”
There you have it! I have to end with this latest development between us. I forgot to tell you that when I was in my forties, Patti taught me how to drink coffee. I’d never had it before. With a devilish grin she said, “Oh, I can make you like coffee,” and she poured in the cream and stirred in the sugar. I got hooked. After a few years, she wanted me to wean myself from the sugar. I did. Then it was only cream in my coffee. I drank blond coffee. In January, I decided to wean myself from the cream. I went cold turkey. When I told her about it on the phone she said, “Why do you even bother drinking it?”
But on this trip, she had cups of coffee with me in the morning that we made with her AreoPress and it was cream-free. The good news is we sat and drank it on the front porch at Mom and Dad’s lake home near Dent. We did not drink and drive. We sat in the same spots we’ve sat in for years of Minnesota visits and sipped, talked and laughed while cars and trunks went by outside on Highway 35.
Now that I’ve shared this with you I’m going to call her and tell her not to read the blog post tomorrow. She’ll hate all this attention I’ve put on her.
I’m counting on our friendship to withstand her momentary discomfort at being under my loving spotlight.
This is the good life. Wouldn’t you agree?