How to Become More Refined: A Tribute to My "Regal" Friend
by Billie Kelpin
There are certain people in this world who have refined and regal personalities. My friend Georgiann was one of them. You don't have to be born into royalty to be regal. Refined people have an essence that's unmistakably identifiable - an aura of "regal-ness" that permeates everything they do. They walk regally, they speak regally, and everything they touch, seems to become more regal in their presence. There are times in our lives that we might need or want to appear dignified and observing refined and regal people can show us how it's done.
At the core of all regal people is an inner confidence that engenders other people's confidence in them. The first time I think I noticed that kind of confidence in my friend Georgiann was during a staff meeting at CampWil-O-Way where we were counselors some forty-five years ago. I can't remember what was said - it doesn't matter. I just remember that everyone listened to Georgie's point of view. It was based on logic and spoken as a matter-of-fact.
Anything Georgie said was believable because she stated her case with that soothing calm intelligence of a Meryl Streep or a Princess Dianna. Georgie's comments seemed to be spoken on whisps of outward breath, almost whispered. They carried authority but never superiority. On a recent visit after years of not seeing each other, Georgie looked at my long radically straightened hair that for sixty years had been short and curly, and without me asking, Georgie looked at me and simply said: "No." It was the most refreshingly honest comment I had received about my new hairdo. People who are self-confident and self-assured need few words and speak them quietly.
Assume a virtue if you have it not.— Shakespeare from "Hamlet" Act 3, Scene 4
Regal people make everything they touch speak of refinement. When we were young, Georgie and Chuck lent us Chuck’s apartment for our honeymoon. It was winter - the 60s. My new husband, Chuck’s friend, was being sent to Vietnam, and there was no time or money for a proper honeymoon. The night of the wedding, we left the reception early and headed straight to our "honeymoon suite". When we opened the door to Chuck's apartment, there in the moonlight, were two crystal engraved wine glasses with an exquisite bottle of champagne. The sofa bed, as I remember, was pulled out and made up with beautiful sheets and a luxurious comforter, and two hand-embroidered pillow cases covered fluffy pillows. A note from Georgie lay on the pillow with poetic wedding wishes and an explanation that her sister Rosemary had embroidered the pillowcases by hand, especially for us. There were rose petals strewn about as I remember (or at least that's how the environment that Georgie and Chuck had created felt to us).
A few months later, when Georgiann was married, I stood up for her wedding to Chuck. (Of course, from the very beginning our “Chuck” was always Georgiann’s “Charles” as was befitting of appreciation of his refinement and of her own.) I remember the elegance of Georgie and Charles’ wedding, specifically the flowers we wore in our hair to accent gold, long sleeved dresses. When I heard we were wearing flowers for headpieces, I couldn't imagine how they would look nor where in our hair they'd exactly be placed. Georgiann, however, had a vision of perfection, and the flowers were designed to cradle the curve in the back of our heads so her bridesmaids would look lovely even from the back as we walked down the aisle
“Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.”— ― Aristotle
Years later, when my daughter was born, Chuck designed and created a tiny baby birthstone ring for Bethany. Not only was I touched by the elegant and intricately tiny ring Chuck designed, but I was struck by the special little purple velvet pouch that Georgie had sewn to hold the ring. It made the ring special in a way that velvet always makes things special, just as Georgie made things special.
There was other "velvet" in Georgie's life that I remember - a couch that Georgie and Chuck purchased during their first years of marriage. Soft and gold, it was, and large because regal people always think about where the people in their lives will be seated and how they can make those people comfortable. Every time, through the years, as I visited with Georgie, there was always some sort of large sectional with seating that invited the intimacy of conversation - conversations that revealed hopeful dreams, deepest joys, secret sorrows, each one always laced with laughter – just because Georgie was there.
Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.— - Emerson
Of course, one of the most admired qualities of people who are regal is their willingness to address the needs of others. In the late 80s, Georgie, along with our friend Lynn made one of the most spectacular of selfless gestures that one could imagine. Georgie, in Oregon, flew to Wisconsin to meet Lynn, and the two of them, on a great mission, drove to my home in Minnesota to try to avert the train wreck of divorce that was looming in my life. They walked right onto the train tracks to talk to the conductor, so to speak, at great risk to their own comfort in the attempt to save a little family from its demise. In the end, it is the selfless acts we do that ultimately bring us nobility, no matter what position in life we are given. And that was nobility at its best.
Like all nobility, regal persons feel a responsibility to be strong for others and are hesitant to reveal their own vulnerability. Because we lived so far apart, Georgie and I visited infrequently through the years and I saw Georgiann’s sorrow only twice – once when she expressed her regret for not seeing her sister-in-law Patty before she passed away and recently when she brought out the most beautifully written journal she kept while waiting for her son to come home from war. When I offered to have it printed for the world to see, she had no need for the world to see it. Self-aggrandizement was not in Georgie’s psyche.
After Georgie's death, during an evening of thinking about her, I searched her name on Google.There Georgie was, her words, her interests, on pinterest! She had never mentioned her postings to me, but there, on pinterest, was a generous reposting of links to all kinds of useful information. In her profile, Georgie calls herself a "neophyte", but according to her lovely displayed boards, she was far from that. You can tell a lot about a person from their postings on pinterest. I would have thought Georgiann would have used that website as many of us do, to promote our own projects, to link to our business. However, I couldn't find one link to Georgie's activities in the jewelry shop she and her husband owned or to her tireless work with the Eugene Symphony. What I did come across, however, was a familiar looking image - an image that was linked to one of my Hub articles! Georgie quietly put it there, never needing my thanks that she did. All she needed from that pinterest account was the knowledge that she was passing something interesting on to someone else.
When the time came for Georgiann to leave "the great hall of the palace we all share," like royalty she showed us how to exit. I saw Georgie a month or so before she had to leave every one and everything she held dear. Her thoughts, I observed at the time, were not about herself, but how to make her leaving comfortable for us. When my husband Mike and I came to visit, she insisted that we have dinner at her house in spite of my urging we all go out. Georgie understood that the distraction and busy-ness in the kitchen would comfort her husband Chuck. When I wanted to say some choice words about the disease that doesn’t deserve to be named, she simply said with that subtle, but characteristically definitive shake of her head, “No”. When our evening visit that night must have been wearing her down, she took command and made me smile when she said, “Excuse me Billie.” turned to the kitchen, held out her empty glass and softly said, two words: “Charles, wine.”
It’s difficult for me to talk about Georgie in the past tense. She is present to me because, like all people who radiate confidence and inner strength, their essence remains powerful. Georgiann didn’t come from royalty - didn’t grow up with riches, but she was one of the most regal people I know. If she were to hear this memory of her, however, she’d probably raise her hand and brush the comments away in the air in the characteristic way she always had as if all was nothing special. I can imagine her looking into our eyes and saying simply, “No!” But all of us who loved her know that she and her life - all of it - was simply a “Yes!”