Ginger doesn't live here any more
Sierra Lodestar 05/05/13

Foothill Flavors

Ginger doesn’t live here anymore

by Antoinette May

Ginger Bennett Griffin left the world as we know it on May 19, a bright Sunday morning.

Her shining spirit will be missed by all who knew her. Ginger had a wide circle of friends and interests that included the Democratic Party, Foothill Conservancy and various literary organizations.

Our paths crossed years ago when we were Palo Alto based career women with interests centering around burgeoning careers, “gentlemen friends,” (as Ginger referred to them) and clothes. Mini skirts, maxi skirts, A-lines were hotly debated, the fashionista’s rocket science.

Ginger managed an upscale art gallery, a perfect venue for the wine tasting and style show that I planned as a launch for a women’s magazine.

A diminutive brunette with short, closely coifed dark hair, Ginger was immediately drafted to model. How gracefully she floated down the stairs, an easy magnet to male passersby who stopped, looked, entered the gallery, and subscribed to the magazine.

Fifteen years passed. I was hosting a woman’s group in my home when a mutual friend brought a guest that I didn’t recognize. “But I know you,” the stranger smiled. “I’m Ginger. Don’t you remember the fashion show?”

She had the same petite body that I recalled, but her overall look was so different. The woman facing me had long, blond fly-away hair a la Alice in Wonderland.

Ginger had reinvented herself. She was now a clinical hypnotherapist and spiritual seeker, an aficionado of crystals and pendulums. Ginger

quickly became active in our group which she euphemistically referred to as ‘goddesses.’ (I call them the coven.)

We became fast friends and when I married Charles Herndon and moved to Mokeumne Hill, Ginger visited often. Some may know her as co-director of the Gold Rush Writers Conference. In this capacity, she met Barry Griffin at a reception in our garden.

After a spirited pursuit, he caught her. They married five years ago in that same garden on a happy sunlit day. One thing’s certain, Ginger and I could never have imagined that we’d end up in Mok Hill with a couple of mountain men.

Barry resembles a Spanish grandee, lacking only a prancing horse and a suit of armour. Ginger was a little fairy person dancing at his side. They were a much beloved couple.

Many of you have read Ginger’s name in this column. She was a companion on many a foodland foray, one a celebration at Taste. Ginger, the elegant Tinkerbelle surprised us with her beer preferences. She had good karma that night. Really. Karma, a Belgian pale ale, is fruity with hints of cloves and lemon.

I remember a business lunch at Alchemy with Kathie Isaak- Luke when we planned our first writing conference. Ginger loved Alchemy’s Thai Chicken Salad, a dish filled with such surprises as cilantro, mint, carrots, coconut, sunflower seeds, cranberries, raisins tossed with papaya vinaigrette dressing.

Every Christmas, Barry and Ginger, Charles and I and the Boylsons, Mike and Irene, have celebrated with a no holds barred dinner. Last year our venue was the National Hotel in Jackson. Their cheddar cheese soup said

ho! ho! ho! like nothing could.

Though Ginger had the gently curved body of a teenager, food was a big deal to her. She lived to eat not the other way around. That’s why her choice to combat brain cancer with diet was specially difficult. Oh, yes, Ginger did the conventional things too, chemo, radiation, but diet therapy was something that she believed in as a means of assuming personal control in the healing process.

Ginger wanted to live and fought hard. It was only recently that she realized that the diet wasn’t working. Only then did she decide to pull out all the stops.

Cheese, a major no-no, was one of the first things she asked for. At a small dinner party, Ron Pitner fixed his signature pizza and a fabulous cheesecake. Ginger washed it down with champagne.

Last month Ginger enjoyed a lovely dinner on the balcony at the Leger, her favourite hangout, and a ladies lunch at Mi Tierra where she chose the Chicken Fajita.

Imagine, if you will, sizzling strips of chicken mixed with bell peppers, onions, and tomato served corn tortillas rice beans, lettuce tomato, sour cream and guacamole.

Ginger ate every bite.

Ginger was brave and upbeat to the very end. She is a spirit confident of her rights and will surely be loved and welcomed wherever she goes.

But for those of us left behind, Barry will host a wake June 22 at 2 p.m. Charles and I are happy that the venue will be in our garden, at 8437 Center St., Mokelumne Hill, where Barry and Ginger first met and later married.