For Jo – In Her Renaissance

Today is my friend Joanne’s birthday.  It’s a big one to us – sixty is a pretty impressive number, and worthy of celebration.  Since I can’t be with her today, at the very least it is deserving of a post.

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A few years ago, my daughter-in-law set up my Facebook page though I had little expectation that I would ‘meet’ people in such a forum.  Within two hours of being connected, I received a message from Jo.  She had been looking for me for oh, about forty years.  And I felt a surge of gratitude and disbelief that is difficult to explain.  Honestly, I don’t consider myself one of the memorable ones.  But anyway, there was no denying that we were best friends in junior high school, two of the bar mitzvah brides in the neighborhood (a phrase of my mother’s referring to the number of bar mitzvahs we were invited to attend), and typically on the phone when we weren’t in each other’s apartment.  But life happened in between then and now.  We went to different high schools, colleges.  The last time I saw her was when she came to hear me sing at a place called “Catch A Rising Star” in New York.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been in another time” (John Edward Williams)

So we have traveled different roads, in different cities, in different vehicles.  And yet our travels paralleled each other.  Our majors were similar, our commitments were similar.  Our twenties were blessed with the arrival of our kids but kicked our asses in every other way. I probably built more walls around me than Jo; she remains far more open and trusting.  I am here for her today as I was for her when I was thirteen.  We have both lost our parents and understand the seismic shift this causes in one’s bearings; one’s place in the world.  She thinks I’m a better person than I am.  I think of her as a magic kite – she soars and dips in colors so vibrant your eyes have to adjust to its brightness.  You see nothing else in the sky.

Jo was going to become a bat mitzvah today, but sometimes life shouts “Plot Change!” and you have to adjust accordingly.  She was going to speak about her journey, what she has integrated into her soul along the way.  She had asked me to say something too – and I would have said the following – “This is a day that celebrates the nexus of all that has come before you and all that still awaits.  I am a better, happier person for your friendship.  The children you have taught and the parents you have guided have been led by an uncompromising, dedicated, singularly outstanding educator.  The formidable and unyielding love for Ben and Jenna is so powerful, it is its own energy force.  Your heart holds more than most can ever hope to experience in a lifetime – and you still have a long way to go.  This world which you have touched with your passion and your elation, with your sorrow and your tears, with your right and  righteous “Made In America” indignation and gentle yearnings for a view of the Gulf Of Mexico – is a better place because of the way you have chosen to grace it.  I would have thanked you for the gift of being able to speak these words.  Yet that said, I’m just as happy to write them to you here.  With love and laughter and wishes for all that you wish for yourself and more – Happy Birthday Jo.

54 thoughts on “For Jo – In Her Renaissance

  1. Lovely! I met my friend Kathy when we were both juniors in high school – 43 years ago!! We are both 60 this year. To celebrate, in April we’re meeting in Jekyll Island GA and staying for 5 days. OMG, I can’t wait.

  2. What a gorgeous, shimmering, effervescent tribute, honey, and one that I am certain is reflective of its subject. Though I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Jo in person, I feel as though I have come to know her a bit through your remembrances of her here and her comments over time. You are clearly each a blessing–to each other and to those of us lucky enough to be in your respective orbits. Happy Birthday, Jo! Xoxo, l

  3. I am blessed beyond measure and not sure I am deserving of such beautiful words. I will, however; embrace them and hold them close to my heart where I have held you and our friendship since our days in the school yard at 145. Tonight as I gaze at the beautiful calla lily and rose bouquet I am grateful beyond measure to have “us” back in my life. While we no longer move as quickly as the “dynamic duo” we once were, we have “miles to go before we sleep” and my cup overflows with the knowledge that we will be “together wherever we go”. Mimi, this is a keeper ( tho’ I do think all your blogs are). Thank you for thinking our friendship blog-worthy. I missed you today, even though you were present in every word, every smile, every moment. This tribute to our friendship has tears of happiness glistening in my eyes. For all we were, all we are and all we are yet to be; to the moon and back all there is. And, thank you to all that road along with the karma truck today and took the time to say “Happy Birthday” – it was a glorious day made more special by a friend who sees me as she does. I love you mimijk. Can’t wait to see you!

    • I’m so happy you had a wonderful day!! That’s about the best news of the day! I hope it carries over for days and weeks (ok, that’s probably pushing it, huh?). Love you Jo…

    • Hi Andy! Thanks for the roses from you and Mimi. Magnificent is an understatement. But we’d both agree that Mimi has fine taste 🙂 And as an FYI – the oxygen is just fine up here. Looking forward to welcoming you to the club soon enough.

    • Hi Cathy – thank you! It still amazes me that serendipitously we ‘found’ each other again. Turning sixty is worthy of a post, I think – and selfishly also helps me get used to the idea that this is where we are! 😉

  4. I KNEW I had to wait until I had some quiet moments to sit and read this, I KNEW it. Because i had to read it a couple of times.

    First, Happy Birthday Jo..I feel like we are somehow cosmically connected through our dear Mimi..though bookends we are…you at the front end, and me on the back, but I suspect it matters not..where on this continuum of connectedness we find ourselves. But, wishing you all the birthday joy in the world.

    Mims..you are one of the most memorable. I love the way you speak of the loss of our parents, and the seismic shift this creates in our beings in the wake of those losses. This friendship is beautiful, stunning really and evokes so much gratitude. We are all better when these kinds of relationships are formed and sustained over the epic decades of our lives. To know someone so well, and for the love to only increase. You sharing it with us, a glimpse, is to be celebrated. So, happy birthday in a way to you too! Both beautiful, you two. many x’s and o’s to you. And you too Jo. 🙂

    • It would tickle me to have you meet…Thank you for even suggesting I’m memorable Bon – we know how I see myself as someone easily forgettable. I’ve been lucky enough (or smart enough) to have a small circle of friends (of which you are one) who love me anyway. I’m so happy you liked this..xox

  5. Mimi, two things: 1.) You sang at Catch A Rising Star? I used to go there all the time when I was (ahem) young and lived in Manhattan! Wonder if I saw you??? 2.) The way you understand the ‘seismic shifts in one’s bearings’ at losing our parents (not everyone does, although I’m not sure how) makes me want to ask you to consider (just consider) writing a jacket cover comment for the book I wrote about losing mine. I am on the content edit part (should take 5-8 weeks), then hope to find a self publisher. I’ve liked you from the start (instinct). @Wouldn’t be bad for your blog stats, either.

  6. thoughtful, insightful as ever–these parts resonated: that John Edward Williams quote–so lovely, wistful, poignantly true–and the reference to the seismic shift the loss of both parents causes.

    You guys are so cute up there–your smiles and faces just so open. You are a good friend, MiMi–in all forums…:)

    • We were at a Fed Ex store waiting for some of her packages to be sent, and we were getting a little stir crazy. There is something poignant about these relationships and the passage of time that accelerates whether or not we have our foot on the gas. 😉

  7. This is just beautiful! I would feel elated if I could find a particular girlfriend from middle school. There is just something magical about best childhood friends. We knew it then and and realize it so much more now. To still know someone that you knew when your mind and heart were open and knew not what the future held is very special. I am fortunate to still have relationships with a few high school friends and they hold a unique place in my soul. I cherish my newer friendships in a very special way as well. Friendship is a blessing all around.
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful words and thoughts. Xo Fran

  8. Friends are awesome! You captured the true spirit of yours and Jo’s friendship. I have one who is my best friend of 20 + and then another who is 30+ years. Never would trade a moment shared with them, hard to be far apart sometimes, too. But picking up where you left off, the history is what counts! Smiles, Robin

  9. somehow my wordpress notifications ended up in my Spam folder, so missed out on a whole lot of good here. Happy belated bday to Jo! Great stories and memories. And as much as I hate to, I do give facebook some credit for connecting. Very cool that you found your friend that way.

    • It definitely served that purpose in our case Liz…I have a certain ambivalence about FB generally, though I am as guilty as the next person of using it..;-)

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