Donna Smaldone
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Monday / August 15 / 2011

Nails with Neeser: when heroine is good

Denise & Donna (Girls’ Weekend in New York City, Fall 2007)

“Nails w/ Neeser”. That’s what my calendar read for 3:30pm yesterday. A pedicure date with a bestie. Long overdue, much needed time together. 

We reclined in the massaging chairs (quick to turn off the “seat” option because, well, it’s just awkward to have things poking at your butt!) — feet in hot, bubbly water, sipping Starbucks. …aaaaahhhhhh

We caught up on each other’s lives, divulging hopes and dreams and worries alike. All the while feeling secure and accepted in each others confidence (never mind swearing our pedicurists to secrecy!)

As I typically do when I meet a new pedicurist who can’t help but stare at my leg, I answered Buddy’s non-verbal question with, “It’s a burn scar”. That’s when the furrowed brow of concern and questions I was expecting began.

Buddy: From what?
Me: Car accident

Buddy: How long ago?
Me: 25 years

Buddy: What caused the burn?
Me: Fire

Buddy: Your leg was on fire?
Me: Yes

Buddy: Who was driving?
(ugh… I hate this one)
Me: I was

That question brings a knot to my stomach because I want to explain how there were no drugs or alcohol involved, how our field hockey team had just won an important game, that we were just a group of excited teenagers enjoying life together when one decision-gone-wrong impacted all of our lives forever.

I want there to be an understanding of the innocence in the car that day. How elevated the joy was. How much affection we had for one another. That none of us could ever have dreamed how it would all turn out.

Buddy: How long was your leg on fire?
(I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that question)
Me: I’m not really sure. Time sort of stood still.

Buddy: Did the person in the passenger seat help you?
Me: Um… no

Buddy: Why not? What happened to them?
Me: She was killed in the accident

Buddy: I’m sorry

Buddy: Did you have to wait for the ambulance to get there to help you?
(and here’s where the conversation turned a corner for me)
Me: No. (gently smiling and touching Neeser’s arm) She pulled me out.

Buddy: She pulled you out of the car?
Me: Yes. She’s my real live heroine
(my drug of choice – though I didn’t speak that cleverness aloud)

Denise saved my life. She didn’t have to put her 16-year-old self at such risk, approaching a burning car to free her trapped friend. But she did. She didn’t even give it a second thought.

But I did. And I do. I think about it all the time. And I’m grateful.

I’d like to say I’m grateful for every moment of life, but it’s cliche’. Plus I’m at an age where I’m willing to admit that my selfishness sometimes kicks in, and I recognize there are times I could be more appreciative (sometimes a lot more appreciative).

My loving friend chuckled, lightening the mood as she reminded me of our time soon after the accident when people kept calling her a “hero” — and I kept correcting them. “It’s ‘HEROINE’, because she’s a girl!” (Not to be confused with the drug, which is spelled ‘heroin’).

Oh, and my friend also looks smashing in sunglasses.

 

 

30 responses to “Nails with Neeser: when heroine is good”

  1. Julie says:

    Love you both to pieces!!! Denise… You are my “heroine” too!! 🙂

  2. Kim says:

    From someone who moved away from here for 25 years … I can only say a written Thank you to the Heroine who saved your life.. Now comes my understanding of where you zest for life was “fine tuned” and how you became such a happy, loving woman!
    God Bless you Neeser!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Much appreciated, Kim. Life is fragile and friends are precious beyond measure. The amazing parents I have didn’t hurt my outlook any either!

  3. Sara Mannix says:

    My heart just aches at the sorrow and is grateful for the heroine in Densie and happy that Donna is here to brighten everyone’s path that she crosses!

  4. Dawn says:

    Wish there was a “LOVE” button that I could click. I am so thankful for both of you and for the honor I have in calling you both my friends. BTW, the glasses look great on both of you!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      The thankfulness and honor go both ways, Dawnie. We’ve shared many-an-emotion at our girl getaways (in case you can’t tell from the ’07 escapade pic I chose for this post!) I’m grateful for the beauty in our unique and precious friendship.

  5. Neeser says:

    Reading this made my day Donna! I know you would have done the same thing if the tables were turned. I’m certainly glad that you survived and that we continue to have a great relationship. I do cherish our friendship! nice toes… love ya!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      You make my heart smile, friend! (you also make latte come out my nose, but let’s not go there right now). Thanks for (yet another) beautiful chapter in our friendship yesterday. I, too cherish our friendship — and I love you! xo

  6. Karen says:

    All I have to say is WOW! God has fantastic plans and I’m glad to be able to read your thoughts. Love you guys!
    K

  7. De Hastings says:

    I’m with Dawn: LOVE button!
    I imagine that there isn’t a member of HL, that remember the events of that day, that doesn’t believe Denise was ALL of our heroine.

    Donna, I like I am sure many others, have often wondered through the years what life was like for you when the subject came up or a question was asked is regards to the accident. Thank you for sharing an intimate glimpse.
    “I’m at an age where I’m willing to admit that my selfishness sometimes kicks in, and I recognize there are times I could be more appreciative.” ~ I for one am willing to admit ‘DITTO’ on that one! Thank you for making the point. ;O)

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Your thoughts, words, kindness, and support mean more than you know, De. I am so thankful to belong to such an embracing community.

  8. Amy says:

    i am so blessed to have such amazing women in my life! so grateful for our enduring friendship – tried, tested and true!!! Love you both so much. And, Denise – you are my heroine as well 🙂

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Well-said, Aim. I, too am grateful for our enduring, pick-right-up-where-we-left-off friendship. It is precious – T3! Love you, too!

  9. Skip Smaldone says:

    She’s my heroine too. Without her, I would never have had the chance to meet the woman of my dreams. Thanks Denise!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Like honey to my soul, Honi! All life for me after age 16, including meeting you, my Love, was the gift Denise unwrapped when she stood up in the face of the impossible and said, “not on my watch!” So grateful.

  10. Debbie says:

    <3 Love what De had to say… Denise, you ARE a heroine to us all. I am so grateful for you. Glad you guys had some fun pedicure time too!! 🙂

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Agreed, Debbie! How could I read such an outpouring of love from De and not be overwhelmed with gratefulness and appreciation.

      My baby sister, you were only nine years old at the time of the accident, and yet your strength, unending love, and Tigger songs were such a source of encouragement (…still are!) I love you.

  11. Denise says:

    Wow Donna, I am here at work fighting back the tears, I can’t even imagine what was going through both of your minds on that day, well all of your minds for that matter. Your words have brought alot of closure for me, I never really knew the entire story, I guess maybe I had but probaly tuned it out all these years. Dan was one of my greatest friends, his cowboy ways would melt my heart, I was kind of sad when he started wearing Hawaiin shirts and lost his cowboy image, it was like my childhood friend had grown up. I know that you would change every second of that day if you could and I know Denise would of did more if she could, you, she & Dawn are all amazing women and the bond that you all have with eachother will forever unbroken. Love hugs and kisses to all of you <3.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you for your thoughts and memories, Denise. They mean so much to me.

      …and Dan’s cowboy ways melted my heart, too!

  12. Rick says:

    What an incredible story, Donna. Thanks for sharing this piece of yourself with the world, for allowing us to get to know you better, and for showing how heroic people can be in the most difficult and potentially life-threatening circumstances.
    You could have perished in that instant all those years ago, but, thankfully, someone was watching over you. We are all the luckier for that because of how you use your life to demonstrate the beauty of love, both through your relationship with Skip and through your blog.
    It’s great to know you.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Your words – and the sincerity behind them – are kind and appreciated, Rick. It’s great to know you, too. So glad our paths crossed.

  13. Stephanie says:

    As I scrolled through the dialog, bittersweet tears filled my eyes. Thank you for sharing that part of your life.

  14. April says:

    Donna,
    I remember you first telling me that story when we first started school together. I bet you retold it a thousand times that year and probably a thousand more since then. I’m glad you are here (and so therefore, Thank You, Denise). I’m glad we became friends our freshie year and are still friends today. Good to know that some things never change! Love you!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I, too remember that night, Ape… laying on the tennis courts, staring at the stars, sharing life. You’re a good lady. Love you, too.

  15. Sue says:

    God’s plan……

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