Monday, April 1, 2013

This One's For You*

I can't lie, internets--the last several weeks have been the hardest your ol' pal Peg have ever endured. But I've been regrettably absent too long; it's time for another bout of blog therapy.

Mid-February, my blood sister passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. We did not grow up together, but we grew into who we wanted to be together. I was her "sister in all but blood" until she drew on her Native American heritage and went to the local council to find out how to make me her sister, plain and simple.

Because many of you didn't have the pleasure of knowing her, this collection of anecdotes will have to suffice (though if you know me, you have seen, felt, and heard her influence).

When I first met Jacky, I was 19 years old. I performed at Scarborough Faire with the Omni madrigals in 1988, and was instantly hooked. I wanted to be a part all things Scarborough ASAP, so I joined the performing company for the Christmas fundraiser, Dickensfest, later that year.

A mutual friend took pity on the clueless creature I was and took me under her wing. Shortly thereafter she introduced me to Jacky, who of course hated me from the get-go. It wasn’t my fault, though. I had to belch, you see, and it was right about the time that—unbeknownst to me—Ann was saying, “… and this is Peg.”

I belched loudly and proudly right as Jacky turned to greet me.

She accused me of belching in her face but I maintain that I didn’t belch on her; she walked into the wake of it. It was her own damn fault! Fortunately, she eventually began to warm up to me, and, as they say, a beautiful friendship was born.

One of the biggest compliments I can think of is that our faire friends commonly referred to us as The Twins. Apparently we were, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable. Cast members would regularly come up to me and say, “Hi Jacky! Blah blah blah, Jacky — oh, and by the way, when you see Peg would you tell her blah blah blah?”

Of course, the same thing happened to her. "Hey Peg! Blah blah, blah—oh, and Peg? Let Jacky know yadda yadda yadda." They never realized their mistake, so we just carried on and relayed information between us as needed.

Twins! See why that's kinda funny?
The funniest part for us, of course, was watching new people come in and get told, oh yeah, they’re twins. Soon enough they would nod knowingly, seeing past the difference in appearance, recognizing only the bond between us. That alone makes me the luckiest girl alive, I think.

She knew me better than I knew myself, that's for sure. She had this uncanny ability to read my moods and shifts in energy. She knew what was going on with me before I could even articulate it. "You just down-shifted. What's wrong?" she would ask. It always took me a minute to figure out that yes, she was correct, and determine what was going on. Once I reassured her that it was simply an oncoming headache or tiredness setting in (and not hurt feelings or something she could fix), she'd relax.

Though our mutual love and trust was boundless, we often erred by being too polite with each other. I knew how so many people needed her strength and wisdom on a daily basis, and didn't want to be yet one more person pulling on her, so I would give her space. She'd feel abandoned and get her feelings hurt, and I'd have to explain that I was trying to help. Similarly, she understood that while I'm a social creature I am still an introvert at heart, needing a lot of alone time to recharge. If she was worried about me, she would go to someone else instead, which I found hurtful.

Of course, we'd talk it out and laugh at the irony of it all. If anyone in my world could get bossy and butt in with me without negative repercussions, it was her and vice versa. But because of how much we loved each other, we handled each other rather delicately—most of the time (more on that in a moment).

Jacky had a way of seeing inside a person, knowing what they most needed to become the best version of themselves, and giving the tools to get them there. She brought all of us broken, damaged individuals together and turned our Island of Misfit Toys into a safe haven. She transformed our exile there into a retreat away from the world. It became a place we could be proud of, and revel in.

Our relationship wasn't all rainbows and lollipops, however. Oh, no, internets. I haven't just gotten crabby in my middle age. Your pal Peg has always had a runaway mouth. (Try not to be shocked.)

Like the time when we drove from Dallas to Kansas City (their Renaissance festival hired us wenches to teach their royal court how to dance!), and long hours in the middle of nowhere in southern Kansas wore on Jacky's nerves. After several towns/rivers/etc. containing the word "white," plus endless fields of wheat with which to make white bread, she testily inquired, "What in Kansas isn't white?"

Before I could choke back the response, I blurted, "You!"

This blunt response, however, didn't stop her from calling me for another Kansas road trip adventure. A young man who portrayed one of the Kansas festival's princes became a dear friend of ours, and he grew particularly close to Jacky. She called me around 4pm on a Saturday, saying, "I need you to stop me from doing something stupid." I asked her to explain what she meant. She replied that our beloved prince called her in tears, devastated over a break-up. Such drama was so out of character for him that it caused her great concern, and she wanted to drive up ASAP to check on him.

I told her, "That's not stupid; it's lovely. You're worried about someone dear to you, and you're willing to move heaven and earth to make sure he's OK."

Next thing I knew, she asked me to go with her. I hastily agreed, adding that my feelings would have been really hurt if she hadn't done so. We hit the road by 5:30pm, arriving around 2am to give our sleepy, heartsick prince hugs and comfort. By 2pm we headed home, secure in the knowledge that we did our best to support a friend.

While it's kind of an extreme example, friends will swear that it's just the sort of thing she did all the time.

Of course, there are little moments I treasure, too. I remember standing in line at the movie theater years ago. We were chatting and riffing, mostly to entertain ourselves – like ya do – and when the ticket person asked the lady in front of us what movie she wanted to see, she replied, “Whatever they’re going to see. I need to sit by them – they’re funny!”

And let’s not talk about the time she got on a tear about the Chicken in a Biskit crackers. At the end of a long Faire day, she became obsessed with noticed them at the grocery store, subsequently wrangling every old lady in a 2-mile radius into debating their tastiness. I couldn't crawl away fast enough, but she kept holding court in the cracker aisle of Kroger until her curiosity was satisfied. (I think she kept it up longer than intended once she noticed how increasingly aghast I became.)

At this point I must confess that some of our adventures were *gasp* alcohol-influenced. The way I remember them, they're pretty funny, too.

Jacky's 39th trip around the sun was rough, filled with lots of death and loss. She decided to start off 40 with a bang. Cue a road trip to New Orleans! (It was big enough to require co-conspirators, in fact.)
On the upper deck patio at Bubba Gump's, a bunch of squiffy women stuck their tongues out at each other (because enough Blue Hawaiians make that seem like a good idea, if only to see whose tongue was bluest). At that, my darling sister acquired a new mission:  drink a rainbow.

This, internets, is why (at least temporarily), the Little Easy Bar and Grill had a drink called The Purple Nurple on the menu. (What else is a bartender to do when 5 silly and slightly inebriated women show up at 3am, answering the "what do you want to drink" question by simply shouting, "PURPLE!!!")

I should not have been surprised, though. A friend hosted a Texas Independence Day party. Jacky, pregnant with my godson, strode up to me with two glasses full of Texas Tea and informed me, "You're drinking for two." (My liver still cringes a little on March 2nd.)

One of my favorite drunk-and-silly stories occurred—appropriately—on New Year's Eve. Drinks flowed, and music blared. Jacky spotted a cute guy across the room. He sported a black leather hat as he rocked out. She couldn't make out much of the face, as it was shrouded in a mass of dark brown hair. She tugged down her blouse a bit, touched up her lipstick, and sashayed over to make his acquaintance.

Then the hottie threw his head back, hooting with laughter. At that point, our darling Jacky realized that yours truly was, in fact, her intended target.

(Over the years I took great delight in taking every opportunity to don an available chapeau, waggle my eyebrows and ask, "Wanna date?")

Sometimes our mutual bravado got the best of us. As dance director at Faire, the maypole event fell under her domain. One of our dancers was a large man—tall, and broad shouldered—and part of the pirate crew. ("Captain say Lump strong like bull. Swift like deer. Smart like rock.") Jacky tasked Lump with wrapping the maypole ribbons once the show was done. Lump dutifully trudged along when Jacky was suddenly inspired to mischief. We firmly planted ourselves in his path, channeling a Gandalf-like "You shall not pass!"

Without missing a step, he grabbed us—one in each arm—and kept moving. The ensuing conversation went something like this (and yes, all semblance of character was immediately dropped):
"Peg, are your feet touching the ground?"

"Nope, Jack, I'm feelin' a bunch of air beneath my toes."

"We're still moving, aren't we, Peg?"

*maniacal chuckle from Lump*
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In all seriousness, Jacky was there as I was trying to decide what kind of person I wanted to be when I grew up, strongly influencing and aiding that process. My world without her in it doesn’t make any sense. After almost 25 years together, I don’t know how to be me without her to give me context.

I am recovering from my grief, but it's not the sort of thing you get over. You just get through. I still talk to her all the time. It's just hard because I no longer know how to hear her replies.

So tell me, internets, of your memories. Who do you still mourn? What did you love best about them? Let's turn this post into an ever changing memorial to absent friends. Losses shared are easier to bear.

* Jacky was the whitest black woman I know. She was a proud Fanilow from back in the day. It seemed only fitting to play This One's For You at her funeral. She would have loved it-—by verse two, the chapel was full of Zippo apps swaying in time with the music.


  1. I miss Jacky, of course. I miss my Gwydion everyday! We lost him far too soon, and I picture the two of them in a ceiliegh spin, practicing dance till we can re-join them, in many years.

    1. Yes, of course! Thoughts like that have been a source of much comfort. Jimmy is, of course, keeping time as Bert and Mayhem quaff a pint

  2. And of course the Felling of the Maypole story practically requires its own blog post. Bored wench + hyperactive hermit... hilarity ensues!