An Open Letter to my friend Kitty Leech.
A letter to a letter-writer feels like the appropriate way to tell you how much you meant to me. And in your passing, the master teacher that you are, you seem to continue to provide lessons. The first of which, that we should tell the people we love how much they mean to us when we still have the opportunity. I so wish I had written this letter to you before Wednesday, July 15, 2015. I can still see you so vividly in my mind’s eye, in your studio or the costume shop, throwing your head back and howling when something was outrageously funny, using the front of your shirt to create air flow, talking about your most recent training session.
I first met you, Kitty, in my intro-to-theatre/ theatre practicum class and learned all about putting on makeup and costumes, infected by your enthusiasm and immediately running out to purchase my Bob Kelly makeup kit complete with gray hairs and wax for wrinkles. A year later, I had the chance to work with you directly in a main stage production where you outfitted me with the most gorgeous costumes and I asked you in a sideways manner, if I could… one day… maybe…work as your assistant, or you know, however I might help you. The amazing thing about you Kitty is that one day you did in fact let me be your assistant and you let me do so on many shows after that: from ETW to the 92nd street Y, the Cherry Lane, etc. In fact, you very matter-of-factly stated that you needed your “Jen Chang budget” and at some point you decided I wasn’t your assistant anymore but your associate. In this work I trekked about Manhattan and Brooklyn and learned where to shop for the best fake flowers to the cheapest most expensive looking clothes.
I followed you around town, literally walking in your footsteps. Then you invited me and entrusted me with your home and your cats, Holmes and Watson. It’s from you that I learned to type out the best, most detailed instructions for anyone who house sits for me, because of you know how to use a steamer and I now spray vodka for cleaning everywhere. Because of you I always introduce myself when re-meeting someone because you told me you never assume anyone remembers you and so it’s easier to say “Hey _____, Kitty Leech, etc etc..” and remove any awkwardness. Because of you I bought and still have that housekeeping book “Home Comforts.” Because of you learned to love and acquired cats of my own when I moved to Southern California.
When I started a theatre company, you were one of the first people to donate and were so proud of what I was doing. But really, it was your life of teaching, mentoring, singing in the choir, speaking French, exercising with a personal trainer, board membership, painting, drawing, (let’s not forget), costume design, and living a beautiful life, spending time with your sister and her girls and your parents that inspired me to think that I, too, could be multi-faceted and enjoy doing a million things and still find ways to spend quality time with family.
Los Angeles is slighted for its absence of seasons, but your annual photo of Megan and/or Grace’s amazing Halloween costumes, Christmas letter, and Dolly Calendar provided a seasonal clock of sorts and marked the passage of another year. It was lovely to hear the bucolic details of your orange tree and the progress of work on the farm. It was something to be counted on.
I remember the time you let me have my birthday party at your house and you set up the dolls in your living room in birthday attire, with a doll-size cake. A fellow Capricorn, you were the one who shed light on the melancholia that we are born and prone to, and taught me to understand that you just need to let it be and pass. I have so many stories and memories like these…
I tried to return your house key a few times, the last time you wrote: “…hang onto the key for a little while. You never know when it might come in handy and if you do make a trip here it’s easier if you already have a key.” That pretty much summed up your gracious generosity– the way you never expected anything back.
The most amazing thing about you is that I know there are a lot of other people who have lists and stories like mine. Wherever you are, I hope you have some inkling of the profound influence you had and the depth of love we have for you. Love you Kitty.
An Open Letter to my friend Kitty Leech
An Open Letter to my friend Kitty Leech.