I remember the day I met Anne. “Hello, I am “Ah-nee Ng’ang’a, pronounced like ‘hang’ without the ‘h’.” It was the most beautiful accent I had ever heard coming from the most stunning woman I had ever seen. Standing before me was my new work colleague. Little did I know at the time, her exterior beauty is overshadowed by the beauty she possesses inside. She was soon to be one of my dearest friends, my sister/family in IL, the surrogate wife to my husband and my son’s first love.
Anne came to work as a product manager at our company which meant I would work closely with her. She is one of the most astute and intuitive business persons I have had the pleasure of working with, and I have worked with some brilliant people. While work may have brought us together, our friendship flourished outside of work. Dan cooked dinner for Anne at our house (Lord knows, I didn’t want to kill her with my cooking) and Anne would have us to her house for traditional Kenyan meals. Anne always had a glass pitcher of water in her fridge. I found this elegant and traditional – just like Anne. We even had the pleasure of meeting and dining with her family when they visited from Kenya.
We had no family in IL and soon Anne became our family. In 2008, I had planned a surprise “Que Sirah, Siraz” Birthday Party for Dan consisting of 10 friends and a chef/sommelier. 6 courses, 6 wines…and 6 days after planning, we found out I was pregnant. We weren’t ready to share the news with anyone because it was still early in the pregnancy, so I needed help covering why I wasn’t drinking at the wine birthday party I planned. Anne was the first to know about our pregnancy with Sam, after my mom. We found Fre, non-alcoholic wine, so with each course, Anne and the sommelier, on the sly, kept my glass filled and no one knew the better.
Anne is cultured, as is Dan. (Anne is well-mannered, unlike Dan at times). They have a love and appreciation for the Arts. I, on the other hand, am still developing this appreciation when it comes to certain arts such as the symphony. While I enjoy some symphonies, others hurt my ears. I have a hearing loss in one ear and the violin sometimes pierces to the point of pain for me. Anne, therefore, was a wonderful surrogate wife, performing duties that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, such as attending the symphony and opera with Dan. It made me happy knowing my friend and my husband were having a lovely time doing something they enjoyed and sharing that experience.
Anne is so kind, thoughtful, gracious, understanding…and the list goes on. I am not always these things. Nor is Dan, and as much as Dan and I love each other, our words can be hurtful to those we love the most, including each other. The level of comfort is there so the filter comes off. Yet, we would never speak to a friend using that tone, those words. Dan and I began to use “Would you speak to Anne that way?” It helps us to refocus and re-frame the words. That said, Dan is a joker and would periodically say something inappropriate to Anne, then turn to me and say “Yep, I would say that to Anne!” We still use the “Anne standard” in our home.
With the birth of our son, “AnneNganga” was born again. Sam loved Anne and from the moment he could speak, it was always “AnneNganga,” not “Anne,” not “Aunt Anne,” but “AnneNganga.” All one word, all of the time. My little man LOVED this lady. Even after Anne moved back to the east coast, Sam needed his AnneNganga-fix, so we often would Skype with her. To this day, when Dan and I mention “Anne,” he will say “You mean AnneNganga?”
When Anne married Van, the most incredible, sensitive, understanding, loving, respectful man in this world (Sorry, Dan), Sam’s world was ROCKED. He couldn’t accept this new man in his woman’s life. Upon meeting Van for the first time, Sam informed him, “You can be her brother, but you cannot be her husband.” It wasn’t until a year later that Sam started to accept Van as her husband and only after Sam gave Van a complete run for his money. Like the rest of the world, Sam finally came to realize that Van completes Anne. Individually, they are both amazing, yet together they are a bigger entity of love and compassion for the world and the people in it.
AnneNganga Wilson – I love you, my friend, and I am so happy to celebrate your 40th birthday with you and all of your amazing family and friends. To quote one of the lovely ladies from your party “this was the most amazing, authentic party.” I wouldn’t expect anything less from the most amazing and authentic, gentle and caring person I know.