Today, around 4:30 in the afternoon, my mom’s best friend died.

I’ve known her for most of my life, and I’ve often jokingly referred to her as my “auxiliary aunt.” She was wry and funny, and calm and fierce — an elementary school teacher who gave a lot of love, and took not one ounce of crap.

When I was a kid, I always saw her as a very big woman; though she wasn’t tall or heavy she seemed so huge to me. She occupied a lot of psychic space, and she filled that space with a smooth, easy joy. When she was surrounded by “her kids,” she was a wise old rock with a twinkle in her eye. Outside of the classroom, she was first wise-cracking broad I ever had the pleasure of knowing.

She went ice skating with us once, her school and my mom’s school, bringing the kids together for a holiday event. I remember Minnie thickly bundled in a funny hat that mashed her poof of 1980s hair. She made a train of little ones, hands on hips, one by one, trailing behind her in a waving, giggling tail until she tripped, spun around, and dropped ass-first to the ice. The kids swarmed her, pointing and teasing, and she grabbed one of the nearest skaters and tugged him down to join her. Soon they were all down there, the whole class, spinning on buttcheeks and laughing like hell.

Good-bye, ma’am. You were always so strong for everyone else, and I’m glad that my mom was there to be strong for you during this past year. I always figured that the pair of you would wind up together in the end, two old biddies on a front porch, gossiping about trashy television and bickering over who was the bigger hunk: Pierce Brosnan or Tom Selleck, with my mom throwing in a late vote for Keifer Sutherland now that he’s all grizzled. You’d probably agree with her, but accuse her of being a sticky-fingered cradle robber, because nothing tickled you more than being a little naughty.

You two were the most marvelous odd couple I ever met.
The world is a truly duller place for you leaving it.