Nomi Wagner Portrait Artist

Make New Friends but Keep the Old!

by Nomi Wagner


My life has had several poignant moments recently. To quote Forrest Gump, “My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’” And to quote an unknown source, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper—the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.”

Yoga Buddies

It all started on May 15, when Gerry and I hosted a potluck for my yoga buddies, some are old friends, some new … and all are younger (I’m 75). I feel very fortunate that these “kids” include us in their social events. My mother is 97 and has lost so many friends and relatives. She has a few younger friends and loves spending time with them, shopping, going to movies and out to lunch. They keep her young!

Well, back to my story. The morning after our potluck I got a call from my mom. She had fallen at home and, as it turned out, cracked her pelvis. Though new x-rays show it is mending, it has been very painful and she has needed round the clock nursing care for her safety. The thing she is most concerned about is whether or not she will be able to continue driving to the local hospital every Tuesday, where she volunteers and then goes to lunch with her co-workers.

I had been thinking a lot about my own life and how there is not a whole lot left. To quote Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, it had always seemed that I had delicious “vast savannahs of time” in which to do and see all the many things on my bucket list. But lately I see a wall, hopefully a door, at the end of this not-so-vast savannah.

Los Alamos

At the end of May, one of my high school friends (Van Nuys High ’57) graciously hosted 3 of us again for a reunion at her home up the coast in Los Alamos, CA. We had found each other several years ago, after being out of contact for 40 years. One friend lives in Australia and the other in Arizona. It was a marvelous 4 days, spent non-stop talking and eating. We walked, cooked in and ate out, went to the beach, picnicked at a winery and watched the movie Last Vegas (hysterical!). It was so wonderful to catch up with each other’s news, good and bad, and share our aches and pains, food sensitivities and what we’ve learned about life. We used to talk only about boys! We are all still working entrepreneurs, have all had at least one mate, and are all grandmothers. But now we all seem to be at a point where change is in the air. My mother’s favorite maxim: “The only thing you can be sure of is change.” We know how lucky we are to still enjoy working at this age, but we are very aware that this is our last chapter. Quite frankly, it’s a shocking revelation to us all. Here's a photo of our high school club with me wielding the gavel (always bossy!)


And now for another personally poignant part of my story. (Thank you if you have stuck with me and read this far. Contact me for a gift certificate … really!)

This past month we attended the high school graduations of our grandson Brett and our granddaughter Kelly. They are both headed to colleges out-of-state in the fall, joining their siblings Adam and Rachel who will now be in their third and fourth years. Seems like yesterday when I painted the portrait of them baking cookies.

Adam, Brett, Rachel and Kelly

Kids baking

Graduations are bittersweet for me. I always look out at the graduates and say prayers for all of them, wishing them well while realizing that life is challenging for everyone. I know the backstories of my own grandchildren and some of their friends … they have already met huge obstacles and persevered. They seem so much savvier and more mature than we were at that age. The world is certainly more complex, yet more open emotionally. It turns out that, in high school, my friends and I had no clue about each other’s personal lives, and no one had the “perfect” life that we assumed. Many of our lives were traumatic, but it was all kept behind closed doors. Thanks to Oprah, and lately the Supreme Court (Amazing!), we no longer have to be ashamed of being human!

As a portrait artist, there is nothing more beautiful to me than the human face. At the graduations, I was awestruck by the beauty of my grandchildren and their friends. It was like looking at the art of a great master … and indeed it is! The joy and excitement of graduating, added to their obvious deep caring for each other, was palpable. I was mesmerized and will never forget the experience. Thanks to selfies, email, texting, Facebook and whatever else is coming, they won’t forget and will keep in touch throughout their lives. Early friendships like these are precious. As we learned in Girl Scouts, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, but the other gold!”



So, feeling blessed to have wonderful friends and family, and grateful to still be healthy and able to do the work I love, I’m going to eat lots of dark chocolate and buy our TP at Costco, in optimistic quantities!!!

Nomi&KellyKelly with her Gaga