“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Bright cooper kettle and warm woolen mittens Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things”
Today I turn 55 years young. I have been asked by friends and family what I want for my birthday? Don’t get me wrong, I love my birthday. Celebrating a whole day about you is extremely important in my book. But as I get older what I desire can’t be bought in a store or found on Amazon. I crave more of a sense of peace and happiness vibe. The giving that makes others feel genuinely special.
This past holiday season was the first time in my five and half decades that I did not celebrate one day in my hometown of Templeton, California. The choice was mine, driven by the need to embrace my sanity and realizing that running around liked a timed event checking off years of traditions was a race I was ready to take a much-needed break. Yes, I missed many parts of my “normal” cheer, but surrendering to the peace and calm of my choice was well worth the tradeoff. Thankful that my children were on board with my suggestion aided in me having one of the calmest and tear free Decembers in recent years.
Yet, there were some things or should I say people that weren’t thrilled with my decision to stay south. Having been noted as a collector of people, the final meal of Christmas was always at my house that would be filled with a variety of people from my world. Our holiday group had come to be fondly known as the Island of Misfit Toys. Many of these “Misfits” have been part of my world for ages, people I celebrate and enjoy the tradition of giving to annually. Always in search of that perfect gift, I took a page out of the master of gift giving, Oprah, a number of years ago. I began to gift my people “Jacky’s Favorite Things”. Your package may include a delicious bottle of wine to the perfect counter top cleaner, from calendars, make-up, Shutterfly finds, bottled water and Maui Onion chips, the countless items that have found their way into my gift basket are endless.
Yet the truth of the matter is that these people are some of my favorite things. They support me from my crazy writing projects to moving south and yes, this year skipping the streets of Templeton. As Kelly Clarkson would say, my life would suck without them. This tribute could go on for days, but I am going to introduce you to just a few of the classic characters of Misfit Island. Here are a few of my favorite things.
Let me start off with Mr. Joe Brengle. The line is blurred when Joe and I went from fair industry acquaintances to as he likes to say his “big sis”, but it seems like he has been around forever. Coined by my mother as the “good son’, Joe is the best party guest. He shows up early, helps with set-up, keep everyone’s glass full of bubbles, and takes direction from every female pointing a finger. Case in point why my mother is such a huge fan. His creative skills can only be topped by his deep sense of caring for those important to him. The crew to be celebrated in this post, are damn lucky to have Joe in our corner or near our glass. Even though we tease him about his inside voice and big personality, we would be void of a whole lot of love without Joe in our world.
And speaking of big-hearted people, the only thing bigger than Brandy Haupt’s heart is her smile. Brandy stepped into my world as a wide-eyed intern at the California Mid-State Fair when Lilly was just over a year old, who immediately renamed her Bubba. Brandy makes me giggle like no one else and embraces the leadership skills of Michael J Scott as much as I do. She has the most amazing knack to use non-family friendly words in poetic and meaningful ways. She is the best adventure partner, having traveled all over the nation together. Never one to shy away from a glass of bubbles, she is truly the sparkling vintage in our crew.
Tisha Tucker and I are just one piece of history in a multi-generational family story. From our grandfathers building stock cars together to our mothers sleeping in the Templeton Post Office on the night of their Eighth Grade Graduation to Doris and Floris concurring the world, our friendship is pretty unspoken. She is the phone call on the way to work while we are both picking up Starbucks to the person I can say phrases to that no one else understands. It is kinda a funny story, could easily be the title of our multi best selling book series. Working side by side for so many years she is truly the Yin to my Yang. Tisha and her husband Kenny will befriend any stranger and bring spare children home like bags of groceries. Their open-door policy has made me suggest more than once that they install the revolving door from the Paso Robles Inn in their living room.
Tisha and I have had many employees walk through our door, but none more special than Miss Teresa Dellaganna. Looking for that first job at the age of 16, T (as she has been deemed in our circle) showed up in exhibits land unaware that she just signed up for a lifelong experience. Teresa can thank us for eating salad for the first time, to discovering the world of wine and I am sure many things she would care to forget. She is the first person you want in that final hour that sh&t has to get done, her homemade pumpkin pies are the bomb, and if caring was an Olympic sport she would be a gold medalist. And although she can fight with our children like an older sister, our family would be incomplete without Teresa.
Speaking of people that I have collected thanks to my days at 2198 Riverside Avenue, I would be remiss to leave out Peggy Flynn. From emceeing beauty pageants to taking over whole departments, Peggy never tells me no. I like that about her. Just kidding, not only is she down for anything, she does it with a smile on her face and can always find something that makes her chuckle. We share the love of travel, agriculture, horse racing and of course laughing. I admire her tenacity and ability embark on journey’s with herself making life look fear free and fun. She is the Kathie Lee to my producer gigs and our table would feel empty without Miss Flynn.
Finally, I would like to celebrate my side kick since first grade, Shawna Caldwell. She is the friend they write Hallmark cards about. I don’t have to talk to her everyday but I always know she is there and has my back. I am beyond lucky to have her in my life the past fifty years, even though I have to keep reminding her that we aren’t that old. Even though we have been called at times “silly girls” together we have accomplished so much growing up, from winning hog showmanship at 10 years old to changing the school colors our senior year, there is nothing we can’t do once we set our minds. We have even made it snow in Templeton. Our worlds today are very different from each other, but the sense of being raised together in a small town is deep in our DNA and binds us together forever.
As I finish my second cup a tea, I can’t help but think Oprah has nothing on me. Just like her, if could gift my audience a Joe, a Brandy, a Teresa, a Tisha, a Peggy or a Shawna, your world would get a little brighter, fill with laughter and be surrounded with love. When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.
Love you all to the moon and back – Jacky 🙂