Keeping Up With Nina{10}

My favorite centenarian!

Nina, my favorite centenarian, as painted by Pam Ingalls.

There are milestones and then, there are MILESTONES, and this week my friend Nina celebrated the latter—her 100th birthday! Yes, a century of awesomeness for our beloved Nina—esteemed islander, dear friend, kind stranger and generous heart that she is. At Nina’s standing-room-only birthday soiree, I resisted asking her the obvious question of “What’s your secret?” Instead, I asked others their thoughts on the subject. What does keep Nina so young? The easy answer is Nina is delightful with a capital “D,” and flawless on all levels. While I can only boast knowing her one decade out of ten, I still feel quite qualified in making such a pronouncement.

High School

Lovely Nina in High School

Mutual friend Karin suggested Nina’s indomitably positive attitude comes from not concluding, that is, Nina is in the moment; she finds joy and interest in each person and situation, and makes no quick judgement. Where many folks are closed and staid in their measures, Nina sees the possibilities or at least the other side of the conversation.

John and Nina, newlyweds in Paris

John and Nina, newlyweds in Paris

I first met Nina, as one of the “Three Carrots,” a trio of neighborly artists, keen on enjoying and sharing their love of sketching, painting, conversation and camaraderie. Most Thursday afternoons in the home of equally awesome friend (and neighbor) Phoebe, friends Nina, Phoebe and Karin would set up their art studio around the kitchen table. And should they be at a loss as to what to paint, an artfully arranged bunch of carrots would be elevated from potential side dish to still-life darling, and so their moniker was born. I always seemed to drop in around teatime, so as not to interrupt the painting process (or so that was my excuse). Their welcome was a warming as the spot of tea provided, and as delicious as any buttered scone. I loved my role as approved interloper, wading into a confluence of kinship, conversation, crumbles and steaming brew. When I’d returned home, walking up my gravel drive, I felt fortunate not necessarily to be the fourth carrot, but to always have a spot in the produce bin.

Three ravishing carrots

Three ravishing carrots: Nina, Phoebe, and Karin

So if I had to sum up my little ramblings today, I’d offer this insight on my friend and the other fine souls who share such esteemed elder status: everyone has a story. We may see gray hair and smile lines, but beneath the surface beats the heart of a champion of life, someone who has fought the fight, worked, loved, sacrificed, bereaved, won and lost, failed and succeeded.  Be kind and look deep into their eyes and hearts, and learn from a life well lived.

Happy 100th Birthday, Nina!

And this is just the first thirty years.

Headlines from Nina’s story, and this is just the first thirty years.