She leaves Emil's office and drives to a women's clothing store, where she tries on five or six outfits and discusses accessories with the coordinator of the St. Joseph fashion show. Few people know that she once appeared on an SI swimsuit cover. "It's not exactly the sort of thing you bring up in conversation," Hecht says. "What am I supposed to do, say, 'Guess what, I was on SI's cover'? But I still love working with clothes and fashion."
Hecht does about six to eight shows a year, for local boutiques and charities, and people frequently tell her she ought to go to Seattle, a two-hour drive to the south, get an agent and go big-time. "It's tempting," she says. "But then I think, What's that going to accomplish? A little fame and a little fortune and a lot of stress. It's better to go for a walk." Then she laughs.
She's smiling as she walks into a room at St. Luke's General Hospital to visit a patient on whom Emil performed surgery a week earlier. He had removed nodules that had grown on the patient's vocal chords. Tannia stands beside the man's bed and quietly describes to him how he can avoid further damaging his voice. "Try not to talk above background noise," she says. "Don't talk to your wife over the noise of the TV or dishwasher."
He also must not clear his throat. "When you speak, your vocal chords are like seaweed, gently undulating, barely brushing each other," Hecht tells him. "But when you clear your throat harshly, your vocal chords are taut and they hit each other at 60 miles an hour." She makes a big impression on the patient, who swears to keep quiet until he consults with her again.
It's 4:15 p.m., and she decides to look in on Avi's taekwando school, where she slips into the back of the room and watches him work out with a dozen other children. Avi has a yellow belt, and he kicks his legs high and punches the air with great enthusiasm. "He likes it when I come watch him," she says.
As busy as this day has been, it pales in comparison with the schedule Hecht used to keep. A year and a half ago she decided she was spreading herself too thin, so she gave up several activities. A convert to Judaism, Emil's religion, she elected to stay on the board of the school at their synagogue but curtailed her work for Hadassah. She still donates time and money to Planned Parenthood, but she has scaled down her participation in the St. Joseph Hospital Auxiliary. "I told myself I can't be everything to everybody," she says. "My family demands a lot of time, and I see how quickly childhood goes. Those days are so precious, when your kids are learning and becoming aware of who they are. You have so much impact on them then."
At 4:50 p.m. Hecht is curled up on the huge U-shaped leather sofa in her living room. The house is magnificent, all glass and cedar, perched high overlooking Chuckanut Bay. She designed most of the house herself, with input from Emil and an architect. The Hechts have lived there for two years now. "When we first moved to Bellingham, I felt like a transplanted palm tree in the land of the cedars," she says. "It was a difficult adjustment. It wasn't the heat I missed, it was the light. In this house I provided myself with as much light as I could. That's why there are 30-odd skylights."
Until recently Hecht didn't even own a copy of the SI that featured her on the cover. Then an old friend gave her his copy. As she looks at it, she says, "God, I was so fat then. I weighed 10 pounds less, but I didn't have any muscle tone." She does now, and she looks better than she ever did, a perfect size 8.
As Hecht studies that 1971 cover, she says, "So I don't look 22 anymore, but I like myself a lot better than I did when I was 22. I was confused then; now I'm happy. All my needs are being met and I have a loving husband and family and wonderful friends.
"The aging thing is something every woman has to face. At some point, I remember thinking, This is a no-win situation. But you can look good for your age. So I do what I can to stay fit and healthy. Beyond that, I just accept it."