Friday, February 08, 2008

Barbara Zusman

It is a glorious California morning. I have been sitting on the front porch, watching Ruby stalk the bees in the lavender bush. But I have also been crying in the California sun. A kind woman I knew in New Mexico has died and I was feeling the sadness of that loss.

Barbara Zusman was one of a kind. There are moments of time etched in my memory of times with her.

She collected rocks. Not just any rocks but heart rocks, rocks that had been etched in nature into the form of a heart.

The girl loved to shop. One time at Creating Change in Pittsburgh her wife, Rachel Rosen, had done something to upset her. Barbara came sailing into the hotel with her cab driver in tow and both were carrying packages and bags with names like Bloomingdales and some other high end stores emblazoned on them. I turned to Jo and said, "Oh man, Rachel must have done something really bad."

At another Creating Change in San Diego, she and I took off and went to Tijuana. Now getting across the border is not the tidiest process in the world. This time was no exception, we had to wait and wait and then wait some more. She just said to me "This is a disaster." I just cracked up. I explained it was just typical. We had a great time and could talk about our Mexican adventure.

One time when my mother was visiting in Santa Fe, we had lunch with Barbara and Rachel at the Plaza restaurant. They were both so kind and funny with my mom. Then Barbara asked my mother if she was dating anyone. They bonded over that moment. After that they cruised up Canyon Road and spent the afternoon together. It was priceless.

Rachel and Barbara's wedding was such a beautiful day, a true testimony to love. Barbara hand made every single card given out to the guests. We were lavished with incredible food, , breathtaking flowers, little silver plates with their names and dates on them. After everything was over, many folks were running around picking up those plates off tables. During the Jewish service, there is a time when the couple circles each other three times. As it was described later, when Rachel and Barbara did this, there wasn't a dry seat in the house. We were all joyful, seeing two women obviously in love and proclaiming that love in front of friends and family.

At the reception, I still remember the sheer exuberance of the everyone on the dance floor with the two brides hoisted in the air in their chairs. The dykes took over holding the chairs aloft and I remember seeing Libby Atkins cowboy hat between Rachel's legs while holding her chair through the dance. It was priceless.

There are other stories but I will say that Barbara was an incredible artist. She had this really wonderful picture that she had hand colored of three women in undergarments in one of their extra rooms. Whenever I went over to their house, I would make a beeline for that picture and then talk to Barbara about it. She offered to let me pay her in payments for one of her pieces so that I could give it to my mom. I could never make it happen but I really appreciated her generosity.

She once ventured to Egypt on a tour by herself. I was really in awe that she would go to see the wonders of the world on her own. I would call her when tv shows about Egypt were on the History Channel. She was always appreciative of my little gestures like that, to share our love of ancient Egyptian culture and art.

Barbara had a real ability to grow sweet peas in the high desert. She showed me her sweet pea places in the yard. I was, again, in awe. My life has been a little bit better because I knew a little bit of Barbara Zusman. I planted sweet peas this week in her honor. I cried a tear or two for her too. When the plants bloom and bring fragrance to my yard, I will think about my times with her, thank her for the memories and enjoy the sweet gift of her flowers.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful thoughts and words about my mother. Ben

RichardRosa said...

My name is Richard Rosa. I met Barbara Zusman in 1982. I last saw here in 1986 when she was living in Jerome, AZ.

Today is June 28, 2009 and I have just learned of her passing.

If anyone can help me, I would appreciate it. I am looking for someone to email me a photograph of Barbara - the later the better.

You can send the photograph to

Thank you very much.

Nathan Zassman said...

In 1990, I met Barbara. I was traveling, on sabbatical from my symphony position in Winnipeg. As my name is Zassman, I went into her gallery, and introduced myself saying. Hi, my name is Nathan Zassman, we might be related.

We became fast friends, and Barbara spent some time with me in Canada, attending concerts, and . . . . much more.

I'm so sorry to learn that she has passed away. She was a wonderful woman.

Nathan Zassman

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