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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest Blogger today! Bernice and the House Named Slayton

Last week I put out a help wanted blog inviting anyone to do a guest blog and got two responses.  Today I am posting the first guest blog. My hope is that I might be able to entice some blog readers to try out blogging.

Bernice and The House Named Slayton
by Midnight Rider

She sat on the bench with Jane, across from the entrance reception desk. I spotted her from the lobby just sitting there. Relaxed smiling. Looking guilty, but not. As I approached the bench she sighed, “I’m tired,” laughing half apologetically. “Your entitled,” I quipped. She laughed again. Sweet, her belly rising and falling as if the laugh was less like topical ointment and more like hello my feet are smiling with my face. This is Bernice Kish. The Beacon of Wilde Lake at rest on the slatted wooden bench like a woman waiting for a ride. One half hour remains to the gallery reception. Her close friend Nat has left. She sits with Jane bent slightly into her. The moment is sad, the moment is poignant, the moment is filled with a swirling cacophony of silent memories between us; for each of us. The woman who has come to be The Symbol of Slayton House is parked on the bench outside her office, on her own sidelines, ticking down a personal best of twenty-five years as Village Manager, Slayton House Manager; Gallery Director. A mere foot from the goal, the hushed “crowd” gathers as final witness to the closing endgame transitioning into yet another chapter.  Kindle not. Earmarked, well lived and very personal, yes.

The afternoon’s artist reception numbered 208, give or take, in a setting passionately cultivated by Bernice The Originator. A community gallery with the warmhearted patina of an intimate salon. The guests are mostly gone now. Classical guitarist Don Miller plays to framed fields of lavender in oil and crusted bread sticks spackled on canvas. He plays lost to himself as if alone on his own front porch serenading the cul-de-sac. Don’s lilting chords permeate the after air of the day’s reception and drift down the hall to the bench.

Jane is charming a yes out of Bernice. “Maybe I’ll come back for one or two,” she softly responds looking away. As if looking back in the day when the classic film series spun reel to reel real vintage movies and served up silent films with Ray Brubaker on the piano, Marvelous Movies & More circa ‘91. Today the DVD swallows a disk, up roars the golden lion and says there’s Loretta Young, sashaying across a lavish drawing room,
in a bias cut cream gown ooshing of satin. Loretta is gone and the movie faithful have dwindled with the times. Cut to Bernice, originator and series host to critic-guided discussions, door prizes and slices of Bun Penny cheesecake, the likes of chocolate with raspberry mouse, all for a $7.00 feel-good ticket. Kish has played moderator to change management for over two decades; including the lesser-known management of schlepping frozen cheesecakes from her storage freezer, to car trunk, to Slayton House and back again depending on audience turnout. If you asked she would tell you she was never cheesecake tempted, nor did she partake. And you can believe it. Just ask Bill Clinton. He did not partake either.
Pick any morning at Slayton House and a peak behind the curtain might reveal corporate breakfast training for 200, kitchen buzzing with caterers for senior lunch and early bird staff yoga in the dance studio. On any given day, set-up changes in room usage turn with the precision of Special Forces, in a rhythm that speaks volumes for Bernice’s demand for doing what you are hired to do and hello doing it well. We are talking non-profit wages, rare raises, irregular long hours, nights, weekends, events, meetings, full audits and all the resident inquiries and board navigated needs one can imagine and then not. 

With each change of season, renovation and unanticipated village lock down, at the center of village leadership is Bernice Kish: 4' 5" of a low profile, irrepressibly loving being with an impish genetic makeup, fluffy pale coif to match and lapels of ersatzes jewelry by starving artists. A one of a kind blend of a watercolorist herself, she is Mother Teresa and Senator Mikulski. She is herself, imbued with unbound integrity, fortitude, patience, tenacity, wit and creative resolve. With a running style that incorporates philosophies like its okay to complain but come back with a solution; she’ll toss a few as you walk out the door. Accompanied by a fiercely long term loyal staff of 13, Kish is first up to give credit in the daily grind. And with an ego parked on a spiritual plain, she is the day’s nonprofit version of the GM style of management. Open and accessible, teaming and sharing, believing in you even when you do not in yourself, mentoring and guiding seekers and the informed alike. One has to go far to find a staff who honor the core who groom the grounds, prep the rooms, empty the trash and clean the johns. In turn, one has to go far to find a maintenance employee who shovels your driveway, out of concern, when you are away. 

Shades of the dutiful wife, of a high-ranking Navy Officer, entertaining with exacting detail, requisite glass service for 18 and crisp linens in tow (don’t we all) often moving from base to base, remain. While living in posh locations like Guam in a Quonset hut, she made certain her three charges knew how to swim although she was scared to death of the water. The woman we have come to trust, love and know, once stood poolside shouting encouragement as Johnnie, Michelle and Ann Marie learned to swim, although she could not herself. On her watch she has been Wilde Lake’s Lifeguard of the sane, inane, straight and narrow. She has been our liaison impresario and feel good ambassador. So she sat down on the bench, giggled and sighed. Let it be known “the sit” was an unlikely first in twenty-five years. This Friday, a reception will be held in Bernice Kish’s Honor where, without doubt, The Beacon will be standing tall giving us yet another classy lesson in how to move on :]

The only time frames to memories are those we create. Share your own one-of a kind and treasured moments as you may.


Anonymous said...

Berneice must be thrilled to be so honored here!

MichelleM said...

Bernice always impressed me with her kind attitude and giving heart. It was a pleasure to work with her.
Michelle, CA

Anonymous said...

Just the thought of Bernice being described as a cross between Mother Teresa and Senator Mikulski makes me smile. It sounds like Slayton House will have a tough pair of shoes to fill. Best of luck to you Bernice!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post piece! It is a beautiful tribute to a beloved community member. Thank you for all that you've done, will be missed!

Michelle Alexander said...

I am very proud to state that I was a member of the Wilde Lake Village Board who hired Bernice after observing years of meticulous record keeping and diplomacy. Bernice was the best choice. When I got married and acquired a husband and two children and left the the board, Bernice insisted that I come and teach bellydance, because "I had to continue serving the community." 11 years later here I am still teaching and producing an annual dance event because Bernice loved me into staying and made giving back to my village so easy and wonderful. She will be missed!
Michelle Alexander aka MiaNaja

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderfully written tribute to Bernice.

Business Copywriting Philippines said...

nice,lucky berenice..