Tuesday, February 16, 2010

All The Best

I met Andrea in 1996 when she was a student in my 3rd period class at AACS. She was sixteen years old, in grade 11, happy, popular, genuine, talkative, opinionated, gorgeous, athletic and involved in everything.The first thing I remember loving about her is her sunny smile and as I got to know her that year, I saw that her smile was not only sunny, but genuine and encouraging. She had some official office in her class and quickly I realized that she had been given the gifts of true leadership. She is genuinely interested in others; she tries to talk to people about their lives and their interests. Naturally energetic and organized, she can generate enthusiasm and make the most difficult and involved event happen. And because she loves people and is interested in everyone, if someone has a good idea, Andrea will get behind it and help bring it to life. If it’s not such a good idea, she’ll say so.

Andrea and some of her friends ate lunch in my classroom. They sat on my counter, on the floor, a happy crowd of chattering teenagers, my son, Joe, and his friends among them. I remember envying Andrea's and her sister Jen’s lunches. They devoured gorgeous sandwiches made of fresh bread or golden bagels stuffed with cheese and sprouts, chicken salad and crisp lettuce while I sat at my desk grading vocab quizzes and eating, without tasting, my half cup of dull, vanilla yogurt.

But hearing bits of her conversations, I grew to know that she loved justice, was dedicated to her sisters, her parents, her grandparents, her friends (many of whom she's enjoyed all her life) and that she was truthful, sometimes bluntly so. I liked her honesty best of all. She appreciated the gifts and talents of other people. I learned that she loved animals (horses, dogs, etc), that she raised chickens and as Joe said, hers was the only house in the county where as soon as you parked in the driveway, a pet goat would jump on your car.
Joey took these pictures of his mommy blowing out her candles.
During one of these lunch times, Joe and Andrea came to my desk, both smiling. This caught my attention because they were usually arguing passionately about something—was the sky blue or pale blue? Was Mr. Bitzer funny or hilarious? Did the teacher throw the ruler at the student or at the blackboard and just (unfortunately) hit the student? I don’t remember what they were smiling about that time they weren't arguing but Andrea took Joe’s arm and I thought—just for a split second—that I saw a spark. But no, everyone (Jen, Crystal, everyone) said they were only and would only ever be just friends.

When the only and forever friends Joe and Andrea married four years later, I thought Andrea was stunningly beautiful.

Since then, I’ve gotten to know her better.

Andrea brought a positive outlook to our family that I wonder now how we did without. The autumn after they were married, they visited one Sunday. Andrea took the box of outdoor trash bags and said to my family, who were all in some state of repose, probably reading or watching football with the most ambitious of us doing both, “We’ll take a break after we’ve filled all these trash bags with leaves.”
Clare did some ballet moves for Aunt Yandi's birthday.
Of course no one wanted to disappoint our newest family member, so after asking in whispers if this meant we had to put our books down, followed her outside to work. Andrea, being Andrea, worked circles around all of us, but her enthusiasm gave us something new. It actually had never occurred to any of us to set such a tangible goal and Andrea made reaching it lots of fun.
No activity too difficult -she defines courage with her "can do" attitude. Here skating with the Joes.
Andrea and I share lots of interests besides family. These include teaching, gardening, cooking, and sewing. One summer we thought we’d try to run a summer sewing camp. What a joy to work with her, organizing the lessons, creating the samples, depending on her sense of organization and vision. This year, we decided to extend our summer sewing camp through the rest of the year by adding classes through the months in other areas of home-making. Her friendship is one of my life's greatest joys.

I respect Andrea’s values. She loves family, peace, wholesome things and frugality. She does not hold grudges, and she always gives me the benefit of the doubt. She’s a champion bargain hunter and she’s pragmatic. She cares about the important things in life and gives herself—with enthusiasm to them. She’s still reaching out to others with her friendly smile and her genuine enthusiasm. She is still celebrating other people's strengths, still organizing help for when people are down or sick. I love that I can depend on Andrea to be present at important events.

welcoming their newest niece
After my mother's death, Andrea worked beside me and my siblings to get my mother's house ready to sell. I am not sure whether I loved better her practical wisdom or her dedication, but I know I'll never forget this kindness she did for me. When I was the saddest and most broken I've ever been, she was not afraid, never impatient, but stood beside me.

During our happy times, Andrea made things wonderful.  At 8 in the morning after Val and Andrew were engaged, she called me as I was calling her to discuss planning and organization! She has the gift of "being there" of showing respect for what she is perceptive enough to see is important to people. In this way she lends her strength to others.

Performing a skit they wrote for Care and Eric's rehearsal dinner

The way Andrea supports, praises and encourages her husband is inspiring. I admire her dedication to him and to their relationship. Working together with Joe in her honest, hopeful way, she’s made a lovely, warm hospitable home where the food is delicious, there are always games to be played or projects to cooperate on, and I always feel welcome.
Team Nebbia worked many weekends before the recent weddings
I love the way she teaches and plays with her children. I was waiting for them at my front door the other day when I heard her telling Joey, “No, dew is not precipitation. It’s condensation.” I asked Joey about this later and do you know? He understood the difference?! She also taught him about white and red blood cells, bioluminescence, how to water the plants, find worms in the dirt, how to measure dry ingredients etc. etc. She celebrates her children’s strengths and she is honest about their struggles, making a plan with Joe about how to help them grow through them.
For Jack's first birthday, she delighted him with a ball pit
Now that I have the privilege of calling Andrea “family, daughter, dear friend” now that I daily enjoy working side by side with her, learning from her and being inspired by her, I know that her worth is inestimable. She is a more beautiful now than when I first met her and she has the kind of inner beauty that years will not tarnish. That’s because it is made of real heart, honest love and  pure gold. May the next thirty years be more fun, more fulfilling, more exciting, more filled with love and laughter than you ever dreamed, imagined, or asked for, Andrea!
Happy Birthday, Andrea!


  1. That was beautiful, simply beautiful! I love being around Andrea & Joe.....had the priviledge of sitting in the nursery on Sunday with them ☺ enjoying the babies and watching them play with the children....such a great couple.

  2. How blessed we are to have Andrea. What would we have done without her? I can't imagine. I grew up with Andrea and she has loved me through that whole awkward process. Here! Here! Andrea! Happy Birthday! We love you.

  3. You are so lucky to have welcomed such a beautiful soul to your family. She is so lucky to have found all of you. What a wonderful tribute. Please pass along my birthday wishes to your daughter-in-law.