“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” ~ Khalil Gibran
My first memory of Barrie was unforgettable. She pulled up in her stylish white convertible car. She was every inch a Silicon Valley executive, dressed for success – high fashion, spiked heels and all business. She negotiated the evening schedule with Court at a dazzling speed – two high intelligences dancing like blue jays sparing in the afternoon sun. Then she wheeled out of the driveway headed back to work. My only thought was, “WOW.”
Barrie was wholly unique. I dare say you have never met anyone like her. She was one of a kind – her intelligence, her flair, and the depth of her love for Court, her children, Nicole, Heidi and Loren, and her grandchildren.
Many of my fondest memories of Barrie were conspiring with her on wardrobe choices for her trips. I would come to Donohoe Street when I visited the San Francisco Bay Area. Court and Barrie were invariably planning a new trip and rejoicing in the escapades of the last one. Barrie would plow through scores of catalogues and order various ensembles. I would sometimes help her assess what she liked the best. She would come up with the most beautiful ideas and combinations. Barrie’s appreciation for beauty and its importance made it fun to take a break and help her be a “girly girl.”
A mutual friend came with an associate for dinner on a trip from New Zealand. Court and Barrie put on a dinner party. Out came the best china and silverware. Court having become quite a chef, Barrie having engineered the table design, and the conversation infused with their collective brilliance, it was the most elegant, delicious and fascinating dinner party I have ever attended. Perhaps it was the combination with the generosity and affection with which Barrie and Court welcomed guests into their home.
Barrie loved Court and Court loved Barrie. Their love for each other infused their home at all times. They would return from their trips with endless stories of what they had learned and what happens when two curious people seek to know more about the world in which they live. They sought and found adventure together and relished telling the tales.
I will never forget one time when Court was very late coming home and did not call. Barrie got upset – more upset than I had ever seen her. For Barrie, the thought of life without Court was unbearable. She, Barrie Skinner, had hit the trifecta in life. Court was Barrie’s high school football captain, MIT’s most eligible bachelor, her knight in shining armor, her “First Skinner.” Marrying the man of her dreams was what she most wanted in this world. She got it – and she was proud of it. If you ever had a chance to glimpse the love that she had in her heart for Court, then you know what true love looks and feels like.
So too Barrie loved her children and grandchildren. She loved first and foremost to be with them or talk with them by phone. When they were absent, she would bring them present by invoking their ideas, considering their needs, telling stories about them and expressing her pride in them and their many accomplishments. Her fierceness on behalf of her children was great – a sane man would loath finding himself in a dark alley caught by Barrie harming one of her clan.
Barrie’s caring extended beyond her family. She policed the line between human and inhuman behavior like a hawk. She was offended by inhuman behavior around her. A passionate reader, she would regale anyone in hearing distance with howls of outrage or of laughter when reading current events. Of course, we had to know what it was immediately, as Barrie could sleuth out the most amazing news and insights. Barrie had a great eye for a good story.
It was my habit when I was stayed at 310 Donohoe to bring orchids. They reminded me of Barrie – unique, elegant and strong with the delicacy that comes with all life that is special. They reminded me of the unique love in that home. Of Court’s endless excursions to find some delicious cup cakes, exotic gelato or some new treat to delight Barrie. Of what happens when there are good hearts at the center of a home.
Shakespeare described this in the marriage proposal scene in The Life of King Henry the Fifth
“A speaker is but a prater, a rhyme is but a ballad; a good
leg will fall, a straight back will stoop, a black beard
will turn white, a curled pate will grow bald, a fair
face will wither, a full eye will wax hollow, but a good
heart is the sun and the moon — or rather the
sun and not the moon, for it shines bright and never
changes, but keeps [its] course truly.”
As Barrie passes from this world, let us also celebrate her wedding anniversary and the wise choice she made to marry Court fifty-two years ago today. Two good hearts found each other and all of us have been magnificently blessed by the love and life that followed.
Farewell, Barrie. Go in peace, with my love, with my thanks, and with my praise.
Catherine Austin Fitts
June 13, 2017