Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ode to Jenni

In an attempt to replicate for Jenni James []the same birthday blogs she composes for her nearest and dearest, Wendy and I have put our heads together and come up with a bunch of reasons we love Jenni. What we lack in number we more than make up for in a lovely little jaunt down memory lane - at least it was lovely for us. Remembering the Jenni Thomas of old is almost as good as calling the Jenni James of today a friend. We are the lucky ones.

Here goes:

1. My first meeting with Jenni was when she came to our house to buy a quilted vest I had made. It was denim with a big circle patchwork star on the back. As I recall, her mom had seen the vests at a craft show and wanted Jenni to be sure to get the one she liked best. Little Miss Thomas gave each vest a good going over and serious consideration before making her decision. At least that's the way I think it happened. Maybe she just grabbed. The end result was the same - they left with a vest and smiles on their faces, while I added a remarkable young lady to my list of special people.

2. Since I don't possess the same powers of recall of which Jenni has been gifted, I can't tell you much more about that first meeting. I do know that we lived in the same neighborhood, and we had the navy and public schools in common. Jenni may not have been the kind of permanent school chum that others were, i.e. the kind that you could expect to stay for dinner; however, she was in the circle of friends all Ellingtons remember fondly.

3. Growing up, Jenni had the best swimming pool in the neighborhood. Black bottom!

4. Some of those California days were a blur of depression for me. But there were also sunny spots where an ordinary day took on an air of delightful capriciousness. Many were the afternoons when Wendy and I would put a record [usually The Best of Dan Seals,or anything by John Denver] on the stereo, turn up the volume and dance around the living room. Apparently it was one of those afternoons that etched me in Jenni's memory book. What??? She'd never seen a mother do the "bop" before? [Perhaps she'd never seen a mom do the bop that poorly before!]

5. Jenni is wicked smart as proven by the fact that she consistently aced her trial LSAT tests as well as the following.

6. In their senior year of high school Wendy was the editor of the yearbook and Jenni was the editor of the school newspaper. I was selected (Wendy says I volunteered but I really find this hard to believe!) to be a chaperone for an early morning field trip to LA. There I was on a school bus with staff members of the yearbook and newspaper and their respective photographers, Erick Mafon and Nathan Haga. I've never been much of a morning person so I sat in the back of the bus trying to catch a few zzz'z before arriving at the writing competition. It had been several years since I'd been on such a vehicle; I had forgotten just how bad the shocks on a big yellow bus could be. The teenage staffers were also under the influence of the early hour combined with a degree of performance anxiety thus, mercifully, they did not serenade their sleeping chaperone with any beer drinking songs. The other good newswas Jenni won an award for writing. Woohoo! Way to go Jenni! [Photo R: It's hard to tell but that is Jenni with trophy in hand while co-journalists applaud.]

7. Jenni and Wendy were partners for the egg drop back in high school and together chose to ignore the point of the assignment, which was to create the lightest contraption that would keep said egg in tact after it's dropped from a two story building. They went for a very light watermelon. Kudos to Jenni's Mom who let them do two practice watermelon drops from the Thomas roof. The final contraption involved stuffing the egg in a cotton-filled tupperware bowl and then stuffing that into the watermelon. They didn't win the egg drop, but were definitely the crowd favorite.

8. They may also have had a fine, sturdy straw bridge. (Though Wendy thinks Jenni may have done all the work on this one.)

9. Back in high school, Jenni had the bright idea to throw a Calculus study party where everybody was to come in formal attire. (Because you know people are smarter in fancy clothes.) Many people came to study, but only Jenni, Wendy, and cute Cliff Barton were formally clad. [Note: The formal attire did nothing to help Wendy understand calculus. ]

10. Although it was Jenni's idea to have a dress-up study party, she rebelled against going to prom. Prom is for pussies! [Photo L: Wendy and Jenni at their High School graduation. "And I love the pic of you and me with your eyes closed -- you look like you're having a peaceful, zen moment in the midst of the madness of the day. I look like I have a ways to go to find that zen." we]

11. As precursor to her Birthday Blog Jenni made a memory jar for Wendy. I have always been impressed with her ability to remember the little details of things that happened even years ago.

12. Jenni participated in Wendy's "Send a Birthday card to my mom" campaign. In fact Jenni sent a long, several page letter, typed on construction paper. How cool is that?! Jenni is a prolific writer. If you get a letter in the mail or an e-mail, better sit down and start reading, because they have some girth! To be a jenni-letter-recipient is a wonderful, wonderful treat.

13. Jenni is a writer, a reader and a giver of books. Even though she doesn't even know Molly Jo or Gary Wichansky, she sent a monkey book to their baby shower.

14. Jenni comes from a family of animal lovers. The Thomas clan loves them some animals!

15. However, she's not really a spider fan, or used to not be back in the day.

16. Someone who does all the seal rescuing has got to have a gigantic heart.

17. Jenni is a cat lover extrordinaire. In fact she's like a cat guardian angel. If I ever come back as a non-human, I hope I come back as one of Jenni's cats. She believes in allowing her kitties the freedom to roam around town instead of being locked inside looking out, even when they disappear for a few days. When they come home she welcomes them with open arms and doesn't ask questions or fuss at them for their disappearance. She makes repeated trips to a veterinarian without regard for her checkbook. She cleans up cat feces with the greatest of ease. And best of all Jenni has a real problem with euthanasia.

18. She knows and uses big words. I had to look "polydactyl" up. I was pretty sure it had something to do with extra toes since that was a feature of Ernest Hemingway's cats which are about to overrun the island of Key West but it's not a word I use in every day language. If I were writing about my new kitten that possessed extra digits, I'd probably just say, "he has 6 toes" not "he's polydactyl". That way not so smart people like me would know he had larger than the average feet, not think he was some kind of dinosaur. [Interesting thought - dinosaur cat!]

19. By her own admission Jenni's family might be a tad eccentric, but she loves them anyway. She is able to look beyond her family's foibles and put the "fun" back in dysfunctional.

20. Whereas Wendy and I prefer to be private pooters, Jenni has no such hangups and proudly tells of the time her brother caught her pooting and burping at the same time while he slept. :)

21. Jenni is not afraid to try exotic food combinations like Apple Jacks and Sauvignon Blanc or strawberry marguritas and Little Debbies. This might make her sound like some kind of alcoholic loser, but I think if she were ever lost on a desert island this unique ability to put together food groups would work in her favor.

22. Jenni is just plain gutsy. When a challenge presents itself (LSAT, writing a novel in a month, babysitting her nieces ) she picks up the gauntlet, and she throws herself into it body and soul.

23. She had the best crushes: Cliff Barton, Tony Bailey. She likes them cute, smart, kind, and talented -- the girl had/has good taste in men. (Erik's the proof!)

24. Even though she has been known to accidentally poison her husband, she really, really loves him. You can just tell by the way she writes about him. And the way she's smiling on her wedding day.

25. Jenni is a pirate and viking lover. Well, really, who isn't?!

26. Jenni is faithful to her goth roots and still loves to be black-clad.

27. Speaking of her dark roots, back in the day Jenni's favorite movie was A Clockwork Orange. My favorite movie 'round this same time was Goonies.

28. Jenni is crafty. Need a paper mache cat or handmade scarf? She's your girl.

29. Jenni is a girl after my own heart. She likes to sleep in late, take naps and snuggle. I believe if Jenni is ever elected President she'll make sure that government offices don't start their day before 10am.

30. Jenni is a self-proclaimed cake lover, nevertheless she is the proud owner of a very fancy pie safe which will never hold a pie. Go figure!

So girlfriend, there you have it. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I'm not sure we did your special way of birthday greetings justice, but we gave it our best drop-an-egg-in-a-watermelon try. We wish you the very happiest of birthdays and add this Irish blessing for the year ahead:

May flowers always line your path, and sunrise light your day.

May songbirds serenade you, every step along the way.

May a rainbow run beside you, in a sky that's always blue,

and may happiness fill your heart, each day your whole life through.

Be blessed, my sweet friend,

Merry ME/WE


Anonymous said...

I could be wrong, but I think I am wearing Jenni's smart glasses in the Calculus photo, while she's wearing them in the trophy photo. Awesome! (If I'm wrong, I don't want to know.)

Jenni, you delight me and I hope you have a wonderful, cat-healthy, cake-ful, seal-healthy, and hug-filled day.

Love you girlie.

Anti Jen said...

Wow, I am super honored. You two have definitely made my day!

I've got to say, there are a few memories that you came up with that I had forgotten - such as the crafty vest (my mom will mock me so hard, as I now tell her vests are useless and no one wears them... and I am certain I would've compared and contrasted the hell out of your selection - I do that with everything. It's maddening...) - and the fabulous formal calculus party. Now that you have jogged my memory, I believe that very few people other than you and Cliff showed up for said party. (Or at least very few complied with the dress code...) But that was just fine with me, for as you noted, Cliff was a biggie in my book...

And you are correct, Wendell, those are my dorky smart glasses - looks like before they got all scratched up and I popped the lenses out of them.

That reminds me. I'm wearing them in a picture that I have loved for ever which Erick Mafong took of me with you in the background at that state journalism contest. I will scan it and email it to you, though I'm sure you are the one who gave me the original...

Thank you thank you thank you both. I am feeling so loved.

And, yes, the cats are healthy and snuggly today (although we gave them some droncit for a bit of worminess yesterday - gross!) and Erik is going to bake me a cake later - with an experimental layer of marshmallow frosting that you have to make over a double burner.

Anyway, I especially love the part where I am not necessarily an "alcoholic loser" for combing sugar cereals with cheap wines... Nice spin, ladies.

I also loved the use of italics to shift narrators - very Sound and the Fury of you, Missies...

Again, a million thanks and endless admiration right back at you.

Anonymous said...

A lovely tribute to someone who sounds like she'd be fun to know!


Sharron Jackman said...

Hi Jenni: Happy Birthday, and what a wonderful tribute your friends sent to you! I have only known you for a few years, but no one could ask for a better "seal wrangler" to work with. Even though I know you are scared on docks in general, and water in particular, if I ask you to do something scary to help an animal, I know I can count on you to jump right in there and help me. Jenni is young enough to be my daughter, but she has taught me many things that I wouldn't know otherwise. I respect her opinions, and delight in her sense of humor. We have had many many laughs on difficult rescues together, and sometimes tears too! You are the best Jenni, and there was a day that you told me "Sharron, you rock" and it just made my day! So go be happy, eat lots of cake, and we will see you on Saturday at our birthday dinner bash! Shar

Gregory said...

silly, everybody knows that apple jacks and sauvignon blanc is a pedestrian pairing at best. Stick with a burgundian chardonnay or if you must, something crisp dry and Alsacian. For such a smart person you sure are dumb.... miss your letters though...I supose I should stimulate you with one of my own.

Is your birthday October 11... today is my sister's birthday too..

I hope all your birthday wishes came true and that your "crafty vest" is just the right size and all the pathces are in the right places.

I just got back from Austin Texas where I opened another restaurant for my company. I have two important things to say about Austin:
1. Chicken-Shit Bingo...need I say more

2. I passed a store called "If you can kill it we can make a boot out of it". Can we say God's Country?

Love you and can't wait to hear from you...oh yeah...Happy Birthday