Thursday, April 22, 2010

Janie

Every once in a while we meet people who are larger-than-life, and they make an immediate and lasting impression upon us. Janie was just such a person. She was the mother of someone who had been a friend of mine, and the first time my friend took me home to meet his parents, I was gobsmacked. I had never been in the presence of such wealth, and I think my jaw dropped. However, Janie wore her wealth comfortably. She had been the product of aristocracy and Swiss finishing schools, and she knew how to make people feel at home. Janie was an interesting person. She once told me she had been one of the original "Bond girls". She had worked for Sir William Stephenson, known as The Man They Call Intrepid, and the person on whom Ian Fleming had based his James Bond stories. According to Ian Fleming, "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is William Stephenson."

Janie had two sons, and like some mothers, she felt that none of her sons' friends were "good enough" for them, and that included me. It wasn't until years later that I learned Janie had actually liked me, and she was sorry her son and I were no longer friends.

After my mother died, Janie embraced my daughter and me into the family fold. We were invited for Christmas, and on Christmas morning Janie and her husband opened a huge wooden crate full of bottles of Champagne -- a gift from the President of some European country -- I can't remember now which one. Janie's husband was on the Board of Directors of General Electric, and every year Janie received a new top-of-the-line refrigerator and stove, which I always admired. One year there was a knock at my door, and two delivery men were standing there with a stove. Janie had received her brand-new General Electric stove, and she sent me her "last year's" model.

Janie was an amazing cook, and we enjoyed many wonderful dinners in her beautiful dining room, surrounded by gorgeous antique furniture and silverware, and the best wine and port. My friend, who was rough around the edges most of the time, turned into a completely different person whenever he was in his mother's presence. He slipped very smoothly into his private-school "aristocratic" persona, his manners were impeccable, and he always referred to Janie as "Mother Dear" -- never "Mom".

It's strange, I have thought of Janie often over the years, even though I don't have the fondest memories of my friendship with her son. It was definitely not one of the most pleasant times in my life and I try not to remember it, but I was fascinated with Janie. In an odd way, she was one of the anchors in my life -- a touchstone as it were -- and I believe I learned something from her. Even though she had been blessed with beauty and wealth, her life sometimes was in turmoil because of something stupid her sons were doing -- or not doing -- even well into their adulthood. Janie knew how to be the steady center of the disorder and chaos. It was what she had been trained to do, and she was good at it.

I thought about Janie on Tuesday morning and I wondered how she was, and I hoped she was well. In the last couple of years I had thought about visiting her, but I just never got around to doing it. Yesterday I found out that Janie died -- on Tuesday morning. She just decided that it was time to go, and that was it. That's pretty much how Janie would do it -- no fuss, no muss -- just do it. But, what an amazing life she had. I'm glad I knew her.

28 comments:

Cloudia said...

What a lovely tribute to an obviously very special person.
You were lucky to know her, and obviously your life was touched with her magic.

Condolences with warm Aloha from Waikiki


Comfort Spiral

Jo said...

Cloudia, yes, oddly I have sort of been dreading hearing about Janie's passing. She was an icon!

DJan said...

I think it's interesting that she came into your thoughts on the morning she died. Maybe she touched your soul in passing. This has happened to me -- not always, but in some way maybe we are connected to each other in that world outside of time and space.

Jo said...

DJan, it's very odd, but we have a database at work where we can look people up, (even though we're not supposed to ... ssshhh...) and I typed in her name on Tuesday morning to see if Janie was still alive (strange, but true), and that was right when she passed away.

Nes said...

Wow...what a special person. Its not every day you come across someone like that.

By the way, I just noticed your art pieces displayed at the sidebar of your blog! Call me blur. But anyway, they are really good! Just wanted to tel you that.

Wolynski said...

Very touching story. However, I often wonder about good and anchored mothers, whose children didn't turn out so well. It means they weren't good mothers.

In most cases, it's something between the parents that children pick up on. And sometimes, if the mother is bigger than life, the children feel squashed.

Ocean Girl said...

Hi.

It is a little sad to find out that an amazing person just passed on.

the walking man said...

Makes me think I should try to re-connect with a few of them older ones who will be on their way soon enough. Nice tale told well in the telling Jo.

Land of shimp said...

She sounds like she was a fascinating person, but as if her life came to a rather sad end. There is a difference, isn't there? Even if you haven't seen someone in many years, the world just feels different when we know for sure certain people are no longer in it.

I'm sorry your world got a little smaller today.

Brenda said...

I tend to look up people that I haven't heard from for a long time, just to see if they are still with us.
I get those premonitions sometimes also, and so does my husband occasionally.
Thanks for sharing this with us. have a great weekend!

Whitney Lee said...

She sounds fascinating. I'm sorry you didn't get an opportunity to speak with her again, but it's uncanny how in tune with her you were Tuesday morning.

Russell said...

I join the rest and say you were fortunate to know and have a good relationship with this bigger than life woman.

I am sure the family has equally fond memories of you as you of them.

A.M. said...

beautiful! I'm sorry for your loss, but your story...she would be proud of how you remembered her.

A.M. :o)

Katy said...

Jo, as always you are such a wonderful writer. Thank you for sharing Janie with us. I am always fasinated by the way life often brings us to the right people at just the right time.

Marguerite said...

That certainly is uncanny, how you thought of her, just at that precise time! Life is sometimes stranger than fiction. Thanks for sharing this story about Janie with us.

Jo said...

Nes, thank you! I just shuffled some of the art work around a bit. :-)

Wolynski, my goodness, you are so right! I know of several (!!!) cases of mothers who have been over-bearing on their sons, and they squash their personalities, or change who they are -- forever. At the time they don't even realize they are doing it until it's too late. You are very perceptive.

Ocean Girl, yes, but she had a good, full life. :-)

Mark, if there is someone you feel you should contact, now is definitely the time to do it.

Alane, you're so right! The world does feel different. And I think is sad when the end comes for anyone. She led a very full and intersting life.

Brenda, I wish I had contacted her sooner. I have thought about her quite often.

Whitney, yes, I was looking her up just as she passed away. That is uncanny, isn't it?

Russell, oh, I'm not so sure all of the family members have fond memories of me. But...

Anne-Marie, she was definitely an interesting person, and I will always remember her.

Katy, thank you! And, yes, the first Christmas without my mother, especially, Janie was very kind to us.

Marguerite, I actually got goosebumps when I heard she had passed away just when I was thinking about her. And she was in the hospital right next door to where I work. If I had known, I could have just popped next door to see her.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

What a beautiful post, dear Jo...We should all be so fortunate to have a Janie in our lives...what an inspiring and strong woman she must have been. Thank you for sharing your lovely recollections of your relationship...in your grief, you have caused our spirits to soar...you are beautiful! ~Janine XO

Jo said...

Janine, thank you. You know, I have sort of been dreading the day that Janie passed away. She was a very interesting person and quite unique. She even dated David Niven at one time! The world is a little less interesting without her in it. :-)

Sam Liu said...

Oh Jo, that is such a powerful story. Janie sounds like a wonderful woman. It's so marvelous how we meet people as a result of seemingly random events, and how those people can turn out to be the ones who affect our lives the most. I truly enjoyed reading this, may Janie rest in peace.

Single and Sane said...

What an interesting woman. Thanks for introducing us to her...I'm so sorry about her passing.

I've had moments like that when someone came to mind at the same time a major event was taking place. The most recent was a dream about my niece's new little girl at the moment of her birth.

PinkPanthress said...

Sad to hear about your friend's mother, but I guess she had a good life. :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think that she stopped in to say goodbye to you as she left this plane. You probably meant far more to her than you ever knew.

kenju said...

I dated a guy from age 15 to 22, and his mom was like Janie (minus the Swiss schools). She thought I was not good enough for her son, and I eventually broke it off. Some years later, he married a woman who had twins from a former marriage. I heard through the grapevine that she wished he had married me!!

Jo said...

Sam, yes, rest in peace, Janie. It's odd how I have though of her so often. She did make an impression on me.

Single and Sane, my goodness, yes. We are all very much in tune with each other, I have no doubt!

PinkPanthress, oh, yes, she had a very good life. And a long life!

Susan, I think you may be right. And, she was in the hospital right next door to where I work, so she was physically close by as well. Strange!

Kenju, yes, you know, I have seen the same thing happen with my mother and her two sons as well. Afterwards my mother would think the ex-girlfriend was not so bad after all. *heh*

Paula Slade said...

You obviously had a special bond with Janie that transcended time and space on Tuesday morning. A lovely tribute Jo.

Jo said...

Paula, yes, I do believe something very strange happened Tuesday morning, that is for sure.

muthu said...

A rare breed indeed... Pple who can wear wealth comfortably-- the truth is I have never come across some1 suiting to that description.

& yeah, come people are like that- some part of em rubs of you, when they interact with you.

MY condolences.

Jo said...

Muthu, Hi! Nice to see you again. And yes, Janie was very comfortable with her wealth. She was quite a unique person, to be sure!