Friday, December 21, 2007

My People

from Jacqueline

I once had a conversation with my friend Diane, about the virtues of the computerized calendar/address book – your Palm Pilot, Treo, Blackberry, or whatever – in comparison with the more traditional pen and paper method of keeping your life straight, which for both of us was the trusty Filofax. At that point I was on the verge of transferring my allegiance – I know, me, of all people – but Diane made me think again when she said, “You know, the thing that worries me is that, when I’m flicking through my Filofax to get to a certain day, I suddenly come across the name of someone I haven’t seen for ages, so I give them a call, or I see that note I made about a book I wanted to read, or a play I meant to get tickets for. I’m afraid I’ll miss those things if I have a means of going straight to a date and the time.” Good point.

I was reflecting upon Diane’s insight this week when, surrounded by a box of Christmas cards, my current Filofax and two old address books, I began to write my cards. You see, I’m a collector of people. Not in a Terence Stamp in “The Collector” sort of way – you won’t find anyone locked away in my garage – a but in the way of wanting to keep people with me even when it’s time to let them go, even when they’ve gone. It could be this reflective time of year, but I get rather sad about it, sad that they’ve moved on, that I’ve moved on, and we’re just memories to each other now.

Take Jennifer, my friend from the age of six. Jenny protected me at school when I was teased about my lazy eye and, loyal to the core, she was waiting at my house when I came home from the hospital after the corrective surgery, complete with bandages around my eyes. My mother had taken down all the mirrors so I wasn’t scared by my own painful reflection, with bloody eyes and bruises from my eyelids to my cheeks, and she told Jenny to try to not show surprise when she saw me. I remember arriving at the house and when mum took off the bandages, Jenny pressed her lips together and said, “Oh, Jackie, what beautiful eyes.” Then when I went to the bathroom she buried her head in my mother’s lap and cried her heart out. She emigrated to Canada when we were both thirteen, but we managed to keep a friendship alive until we were about thirty-two. I last spoke to Jen about twelve years ago, and it was wonderful. I’d love to see her again, would love to have a chat. But I don’t know where she is now, just that she still lives somewhere in Ontario, I think.

Then there’s Helen and John, and along with them, there’s Ade. We were all caught up in one of life’s hurricane’s about eighteen years ago. I don’t know what I would have done without their friendship. It was the worst of times, to tell you the truth. But talk about laugh! John and Helen were two of the wittiest people I have ever met – thank heavens they married each other. There were times when we laughed until we cried, and there were laughs when we should have been crying, and we all did just that too. What I wouldn’t give to have just one more silly dinner with those lovely people. I remember once, driving to an appointment with Ade – I was the marketing exec and he was the designer, and our client was in the business of “women’s sanitary wear.” So, along with Ade’s designs (this was before you simply sent a computer link), multiple copies of my proposal and boxes of aforesaid sanitary wear, off we went to the big meeting to make our pitch. The weather was dreadful and although I was zipping along, I also had to keep my eyes peeled to the road. We were bantering a bit, talking about this and that, and suddenly Ade says, “Let’s just hope we don’t get into an accident with a condom lorry – can you just imagine the headlines?” So we did, and it was all we could do not to giggle throughout the whole meeting. We got the job though.

I miss Peggy because she was my first real friend when I came to America. She knew my brother and he’d said that if she wanted someone to ride her horse when she couldn’t, well, his sister would do it. We became firm friends, going to movies together, taking her daughter to Catalina Island for the day, riding horses – nothing spectacular, but lots of fun. Peggy eventually went back to Minnesota and within a couple of years she was married. We traded a few letters and calls, then one day I realized she was one of the lost ones. Her name and the last address I have for her are still in that book, though. Just in case.

Then there are the people I miss because they just aren’t here any more. The ones who’ve died, and whose addresses are still in my book. I find that quite surreal, in a way. My very dear friend, Pat, passed away last year at the age of 73. I had known Pat and her husband, Ken, who died a couple of years earlier, since I was a toddler. They were like family to me. I loved going to their cottage, which seemed not to change from the time I first ever visited as a small child, to my last visit, a woman in her middle years. The cottage itself was Ken and Pat, it was part of them. I remember Ken saying to me, just before he died – we’d been reflecting upon the fact that they had lived in the house some 42 years – “People just don’t seem to stay long anymore, do they?” I wish they could have stayed longer.

All my people are still in my address books, though more recently I seem to collect email addresses rather than those of actual bricks and mortar homes. Perhaps that’s what we are now – people who carry our addresses with us, like snails or turtles. I miss them all, my past people, but know that – as I said at the beginning of this post – not all relationships are meant to last forever. Yet, at the same time, when I send out my cards to friends and family I look at those old names and addresses and hope the ones who I’ve lost, perhaps, out of the blue might recall a laugh, a joke, a good time shared, and know that they are remembered and memories are cherished.

I did finally get a Palm Pilot, but managed to drop it in the driveway and ran over it in the car. So I went back to my Filofax. Much better. You never know who you’ll find as you flick through those pages.


  1. I keep people who've died on in my email address book. It's lovely and sad to think of them when I open up the contact list.

    I'm terrible about keeping track of real address books. I left my last one on top of a toaster oven and it burst into flames when someone else was warming up a bagel.

  2. Jackie, what a lovely tribute to your friends.

    But you truly must find Jennifer again. Check out this post I wrote for Murderati a couple of weeks ago.

    It will give you all the tools you need, even if her name has changed ... her address has changed ... her phone number has changed.

  3. Simply loverly, Our J. I have NEVER thrown away an old address book. I do keep my "people" computerized now but reading through those old entries is like reading through a diary from your misspent youth. Pure nostalgia.

  4. from Jacqueline

    Thanks, all, for your comments. The funny thing is that, even with the internet, some people are hard to find. And then there are others I have found, but not contacted because, well, just because - sometimes things are just best left as they are. But there among the ones I've lost, are the others who have found me again -- a woman I worked with a LONG time ago, my first ever boyfriend, another friend I used to go dog-walking with. And I'll go to your post, Louise, and maybe I'll find Jennifer. In fact, just recently, in the midst of planning for my upcoming book tour, my publisher happened to say that they wanted to send me to Toronto. My first thought was of Jennifer - maybe she'll just happen to see my name somewhere and find me again.

  5. I have my address electronically as well as written. I like to look back on my college-days address book and see who I still talk to.

    Sometimes when I'm searching for an e-mail address I run across a name I haven't written in a while and send them a note.


  6. We learned at the International University of Santa Claus, where I received my B.S. and M.S. (Bachelor and Master of Santaclausology), to keep a handwritten calendar of appointments even if you have them on the computer. Otherwise, if your computer crashes or there's a power-outage, you can still arrive and not disappoint the party of folk awaiting the great Claus. Perish the thought of losing your data on the computer and not having a back-up.

    Happy Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!


  7. Re: Address Books. When running across the name of a friend or acquaintance who has died, it is simply impossible for me to hit the "delete" button.

  8. A lovely journey Jackie. And by all means - do try to find Jennifer.

    Happy Holidays to all the Naked Authors!

  9. from Jacqueline

    I think I am one of those people who needs to have handwritten backup for the handwritten backup!

    Paul, your comment touched my heart - people may have left us, but they can never be deleted.

    Funny thing happened after I posted today - received an email from the publicist wanting to confirm my Toronto dates. Now, I take that as an omen. I'll see if I can find Jennifer.

  10. Not only do I have my own old address books, filled with all of those memories you describe . . . but I've kept my mother's as well.

    Whole generations have died since she did, but there's an odd consolation in seeing the names of people who were so important to her life and -- simply because of that -- to mine

    (I still don't know how to sign in . . .argh)

  11. Um, it would help for you to know that the post above was from me . ..

  12. Thank you for that lovely comment, Pari - so heartwarming to read, especially at this time of year. Have a lovely holiday season, Pari, to you and yours.

  13. Thank you for that lovely comment, Pari - so heartwarming to read, especially at this time of year. Have a lovely holiday season, Pari, to you and yours.

  14. Jacqueline: what a lovely post. And what wonderful memories of your lifes journey.

    I too have old addresses of friends who have been lost to time and too many moves. I get wistful for them every now and then. Also, for the few who have died, I can't bring myself to delete or cross out their addresses from my real address book (not digital). The times when I come across their entries, it's a jolt and then the smiles and memories flood in. I take that moment to smile and appreciate that they maybe gone from my world, but they will always be remembered.