18 February 2016

a friendship. a reminiscence.

Old school dinner with Cindy in San Francisco. Michael and I took her to a restaurant where the combination of clowns painted on black velvet, naugahyde booths, Mad Men martinis, and a questionable plaid jacket created an unforgettable evening. Not a hipster restaurant redone to look like this; it was all original. All so wrong, yet so right. 

During Christmas break a few years ago, I tweeted that my parents and I made Panettone french toast. Panettone being that Italian sweet bread, (okay, cake) that was a decadent breakfast dessert for our family on that December morning. Cindy saw the tweet and texted me (we loved a good cross platform conversation) and said, "That sounds delicious, I have to make it for Frank and Remy,” her husband and daughter. I texted her, “Yes, it is crazy good by itself or as French toast. But be careful. If you eat too much of that bread it will give you…gas.” She texted, “Really? I’ve never heard of such a thing."

A few weeks later, I received a text from her. All it said was, “Panettone. You were right."

A few months later, Michael and I were staying at the Stankus' house and because we are Southern gentlemen (South Arkansas and South Pacific), we brought a hostess gift. A Panettone cake wrapped in paper and ribbon. She unwrapped the paper and we all laughed. And then, there in the kitchen, the cake box sat unopened. Cake. Uneaten. 

Let me repeat: Cake. Uneaten.

On the last night of our stay, due to our not so subtle urging, Cindy said, “Do you want me to cut us all a piece? I don’t really want any.” 

“Yes, yes!” we replied anxiously. 

And she opened the box. In the box, unbeknownst to her, we had taken the cake out, taped a rock on the bottom for weight, and put a whoopee cushion inside the box. We all, of course, had to test the efficacy of the gag gift, and Cindy then excitedly hid it under a seat cushion. She couldn’t wait until Remy got home.

This was an example of our relationship with Cindy Edelstein, our friend who passed away suddenly at the age of 51. There have been many beautiful tributes and stories written about her accomplishments in life and her far-reaching influence in the jewelry industryI willingly admit to some social media anxiety about writing this post. Would my story be too personal? But then again, how could it not be personal? To not make it personal would belie our relationship bond. Or the thought, it has been approximately a month since she passed away; have people moved on?

But clarity came to me in the realization that there is no competition in grief, and that grief has no expiration date. Respecting the pain of others and how people individually deal with loss does not diminish one's personal grief. And so, my post is a reflection on the memories of our friendship. The funny memories because those help me cope with the loss. Because ours was a friendship whose foundation was laughter, mutual respect for talent, and more laughter.

Since she lived on the east coast and us on the west coast, we only saw Cindy two or three times a year. Therefore, the friendship that Michael and I had with Cindy flourished via email, text messages and telephone conversations. As such, I decided to look back at some of our text messages and emails, which now serve as a modern day scrapbook filled with photographs, bahahahahas and memories. 

In our text messages and emails, there are snippets of life and business wisdom. From her to me is the phrase, “have the courage to try again.” 


And her tough love phrase, "That's beautiful inspiration, but it's too long. I'm bored." 


There is an email exchange where she guided me through my early days of Facebook. Back in 2007, I thought I had found a small hole in her social media prowess when I asked her, 

“Why would anyone use the Facebook poke?” 

She replied, “Don't know. Makes no sense.” 

I remember thinking, what do you mean you don’t know?!? 

When I read this email thread in 2016, I was reminded of her infallibility because to this day, the use of the Facebook poke  remains one of the biggest mysteries of the universe. The takeaway? If Cindy didn't know, then no one knew.

The table at the outdoor summer wedding party that Cindy, Frank and Remy graciously hosted for us at their home.

During the recession, there was an email discussion between us about "the ossification of jewelry design.” (Obviously I was channeling the brilliance of writer, Peggy Jo Donahue when I used that word). There are Cindy's fan girl mentions of a certain magazine creative director, and of a comedy writer we both followed on Twitter. There is even a story from her, about an overzealous Girl Scout cookie seller and the hubris of youth.

In these electronic messages, the profound and the mundane are melded together with random exclamations of happy. With moments of anxiety. With moments of calm. It is an alloy of supportive, snarky, silly sentiments that you would expect from a friendship built on give and take.

Cindy was definitely a giver. One of things I know for sure is the universal law of Order. In other words, in life there is happy and sad, heads and tails, up and down, ying and yang, give and receive. When you had someone like Cindy that was such a giver, I would often see that she wasn’t receiving enough. People could unwittingly zap her energy (the infamous energy vampires) and run her dry. She knew she could receive from us in the form of brainstorming, creativity, or in a lot of cases, simply someone to listen and make her laugh. 

When I reread the previous paragraph, I realized it all might be misinterpreted as my canonization speech, me doing this and me doing that to help. But because she did so much for us, giving back to her was in fact, the only way I could bring a sense of parity to our relationship. Just taking from her did not seem right; it would mean I took her for granted.

We were, along with several others, part of Cindy's Late-Night-Three-Hour-Conversation-Squad. On the telephone, we would talk about accomplishments and angst without fear of reprisal. Our telephone conversations were the type of long chummy discursive chats you had with someone, only to discover that suddenly an hour (or two) was gone. Our conversations could go from a topic in the jewelry industry all the way to something random like, how do you pronounce cupcake if there is an umlaut over the U? 

The portmanteau of Cindy Edelstein and Monica Stephenson, founder of idazzle.com and Anza Gems. The photo was taken the evening before the WJA Awards for Excellence when we made photo signs for a few nominees. A printer misprint created an opportunity for this photo and name mashup. 

Since we couldn’t spend an afternoon with her regularly, we would "go shopping" with her by texting her photos of the most awful things we could find in a TJ Maxx (her favorite), or a store of similar ilk. All accompanied with the caption, “I see your birthday present!” I could just hear her roar with laughter. Cindy returned the favor by, for example, texting us photos of Remy trying on prom dresses, making her daughter try on the tackiest gowns just because both of them thought it was, "hilarious and made us laugh." Those of you who were friends with Cindy on Facebook saw some of the same photos.

In our text feed there may or may not be photos of Michael and me holding wooden plaques carved with nonsensical platitudes, or dressed as Ziggy, or Marilyn Monroe. There are several responses from her that say, “You better be glad we are friends. These are blackmail worthy!”

When I looked back at our library of compromising photos. I clumsily hit the wrong button on my phone and it started to call her cell number. If I had told her that story, she would have laughed and laughed at my foible. I quickly cancelled the call, and was filled with the dreadful awareness that I would not be able to text or talk to her again.

It was Michael’s birthday and as a surprise birthday present, I decided to create a video with his friends, each one of them saying one of Michael’s many Michael-isms. To call it perseveration would be too severe, because he knowingly and gleefully repeats these phrases in his sly joking manner. If you are his friend, you know most of these sayings or the stories behind these sayings. Cindy, Frank and Remy agreed to participate in this birthday video. Cindy had the line, “Well, I’m a Maxxinista!” referring to the time we were at a runway fashion show, and we were ushered to the front row, much to the dismay of the people in the second row. 

They said, not so quietly, "Who are these people?” 

Michael turned and answered, “Well, I’m a Maxxinista!” 

Around that time, there was a TJ Maxx commercial about a style blogger who proclaimed that statement while simultaneously doing a herkie in the air. Or at least that is how I remember the commercial.

The following video is a combination of clips. First is Cindy’s line that was eventually used in the video, and then her outtakes. (She does not do the herkie). This outtake reel has always filled me with happiness, but today it also brings pangs of sadness with the knowledge she is gone. I know that I am prone to superlatives, but it is one of my favorite things in the world. Truly. 

Turn the volume up for the full effect.


Lately it seems like the word love is used to excess, especially in the world of social media. Love this! Love that ring! Love your bangs! Love that joke! I am as guilty of this overuse as the next person. Along came the thought and the question, has the word love been thinned out so much that it has lost its meaning in today’s world? Can I love an iPhone photo as much as I love a close friend? Of course not, but how to separate and distinguish? 

A few months ago, in a few separate emails with Barbara PalumboAndrea HansenMonica Stephenson, and Cindy, I mentioned the concept of thick love. If you know the aforementioned group, you know that it quickly became a hashtag. (And don’t you worry, Cindy and I talked about the worries of the misinterpretation of this hashtag due to personal weight concerns). 

To us, thick love meant love rooted in a long standing connection. Thick as in the viscosity of honey. A person who is around when life is sweet, and sticks with you when the stings of life make it unpalatable. Although it can be applicable to romantic love, for me it meant any type of love borne from a relationship where people have laughed together, cried together, corrected each other and cheered each other on. Thick love is love based on life experience, deeper than surface, beyond the multiple exclamation marks and emojis.

And so, for you Cindy Edelstein, our dearest friend, there will be never be an expiration date on our respect and thick love for you.

We miss you.

Vicente and Michael

A YouCaring fund has been set up for Remy’s education. Please consider donating here: https://www.youcaring.com/remy-sasha-stankus.
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