Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hubbub Pillsbury Pinard

By the time most kids reach ten years old, they are pretty excited if they have ridden on a train or plane and visited Disneyland for a few nights. When Sara was ten years old, her dad and mom packed up the family and moved them all to the African country of Cameroon. 

Sara and I worked together on a photo shoot for an advertising campaign surrounding the grand opening of St. Anthony Hospital.  This ad campaign was a big deal, you know, with ‘all eyes’ watching the development of our creative approach.  And so, our project had us working together closely throughout several days of shooting.

Over lunch one day, looking out onto Gig Harbor bay from our perch inside picturesque Tides Tavern, we exchanged the pleasantries typical when coworkers share a meal together.  We just finished the “what-do-you-do-when-you’re-not-at-work” question, to which I’d told her about my ‘Too Perfect’ collection of ‘dog stories’ as I called them by this point.  We then moved to the ‘where-are-you-from’ part of those polite getting-to-know-you conversations.

“Well, I have an animal story,” she said.  “But it’s not about a dog.  It was a goat,” she explained.  “She was a Cameroonian Goat,” Sara said with not just a little laugh in her voice, probably because of the look of amazement on my face and that of our photographer, Tom. “My mom gave her to me because we lived there for a year when I was ten and she thought I could use my own special friend.”

Those sorts ‘openers’ as I call them silence a room.  Even the air, it seems, holds its breath anticipating the rest of the story. 

“My dad was a doctor and part of a six-person family practice group from our hometown in Snohomish,” she began.   “But there were just enough patients for five physicians at the time.  So once every six years we would take a one-year sabbatical and when I was ten, my dad and mom picked Cameroon.” 

She and her family settled into a community of hard-working and earnest people, all eager to help them adjust to their way of life.  As Sara explained it, her mom was keenly aware that Sara was gangly and seemingly comprised entirely of arms and legs that stood out a bit among the other children her age in the village. 

As a result, her mother decided her daughter needed something to connect with and care for who didn’t mind a hoot what she looked like.  Looking among the suitable animals at hand, Sara’s mom picked out a weaned female goat that was part of the village herd. 

This selection was met with not just a small amount of hilarity among the locals.  A female goat, for heaven’s sakes, was meant to be fed, raised, bred, milked and then slaughtered for sustenance.  It wasn’t raised to become the over-loved plaything of an awkward little girl from America.  To add to the nonsense, Sara’s mom suggested that everyone in the household take part in naming the goat. 

“So among my choices included my sister’s suggestion, which was ‘Hubbub’, for all the hubbub around that goat,” Sara explained.  “Then, the cook suggested ‘Pillsbury’ for the cake mix-in-a-box that my mom packed among the precious cargo of our belongings so she could make a cake for each of the kids for our birthdays while we were in Cameroon.

And so where did ‘Pinard’ come from? I wondered aloud. 

“Well, the gardener suggested Pinard, and said to me ‘Pinard, because you are like the pinards who traveled across the sea when it was thought to just be flat to find a new world.’”  Obviously, he meant pilgrim, but the word was lost-in-translation.  

Then Sara, with all the pomp-and-circumstance a ten-year-old can muster, took these and other suggestions and laid them on her bed to decide the very best name for her Cameroonian goat.  And, she couldn’t pick just one.  So it was formally Hubbub Pillsbury Pinard and when the occasion called for it, ‘Hubbub’ worked just fine. 

It was a love, too perfect, from the very start.  It was not unlike that little nursery rhyme, remember Mary Had a Little Lamb?  Well, Sara had a little goat and Hubbub was its name.  And everywhere that Sara went the goat went just the same.  When the two very best friends were apart, such as during the school day, Hubbub Pillsbury Pinard waited patiently around the yard.  I can just imagine her claiming a perch of her own and standing watch until the appointed time.

“I would walk down the path from the school and call out “Hubbuuuuuub!”  Sara said cupping her hands and letting her mind wander back to that special time after school each day.  “And Hubbub would answer back in a loud bleeting that sounded like ‘I’m so glad you’re home.’  My mom was right.  Hubbub was a perfect match for me.” 

As love stories go, this one had its own ending.  A Cameroonian goat belongs, quite rightly, in Cameroon.  And, at the closing of their year in country, Sara’s mom helped her understand that and also to ease their parting with the promise that Hubbub would be well cared for in the village. 

“I heard from them that they let her have a kid, and raise it until it was full grown.  I know later Hubbub became sustenance,” Sara said in a matter-of-fact way.  “But she was special and everyone knew that.” 

Sara loved Hubbub and Hubbub loved Sara right back.  Everyone in the village knew it and while they may have joked about it, their actions were to revere that relationship.  Maybe they did so in honor of their rapport with Sara’s parents and the healing medicine her father practiced in their community? 

“My dad was one of the last, great country doctors,” Sara says proudly, whose father recently retired from his Snohomish practice.  “He listened to his patients and took as much time with them as they and he needed to ensure he diagnosed and treated them properly. It’s not like today where doctors can only spend a few minutes with a patient depending on the type of illness and the time allotted by insurance reimbursements.” 

He understood about using his gifts and education and giving back to those who needed his attention, such as the families living in and around that village in Cameroon.  Can you imagine the numbers of children who received immunizations and the countless others treated for minor ailments and injuries who otherwise would not have received such care? 

His wife, a partner in the truest sense of the word, supported and enhanced that commitment by ensuring he could bring his family wherever he practiced medicine.  She passed along invaluable lessons of love, commitment and friendship to her children and everyone around her.  I’ve often heard love is best used as a verb, and Sara’s mom knew how to put love into action. 

Sara herself is now a mother, with a beautiful daughter who is just as precocious as Sara was as a child.  The other day, as Sara explained it, she asked her daughter to say ‘the magic word’ in order to get dessert.  Without missing a beat, she answered with “Abracadabra!”

Sara’s daughter is bright, inquisitive and holds the promise of becoming a gangly youth full of arms and legs and pre-teen awkwardness someday.  Given the lessons passed along from her own mother, Sara is well-equipped to usher her daughter through the many changes and stages that life brings her.  Its love, in action, any way you look at it.  And, just too perfect

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