From a time when I was very young, too young to remember, until I was a teenager, Janet Who was in my life.
Janet was from a religion that didn't believe in the people, perhaps particularly girls, having any sort of life of their own. They were under obligation to something beyond themselves. They seemed to frown upon most things that were generally thought of as fun. Janet would get into trouble for laughing. Seems to me life, to the people in Janet's religion, was a series of chores to be taken care of. Of always being ready, presumably for the next set of chores.
When the boys started pushing their way into my life, Janet Who slowly faded. I'm told that's physics.
We still saw each other in the hallway in high school and ate lunch together from time to time but, as even more time went on those contacts diminished until it was a surprise He!!o if we ran into each other in the small town we lived in.
As children growing up we'd lived in a world of our own making, Janet Who and I. We'd build cow towns populated with gun toting desperadoes and fair maidens. There'd be honourable sheriffs and herds of horses! We'd run through whole years in single afternoons. Children would grow up and save the day and angry Indians would turn into trusted friends. For variety we'd construct Cities in the mud. We'd have hospitals and schools and stores and all the "proper" characters to populate all the proper buildings. There'd be a swimming poo! and a circus at the edge of town too. People would get elected, babies would get born and the odd funeral was conducted. The next day we'd be Heidi climbing a mountain to save a baby lamb or orphans in the circus hanging up side down on the old apple tree in Janet's yard. I was hurt and confused by Janet's rebuff the first time I got excited because there was a dance at the high school. My Mom explained to me what was going on. I guess I understood.
The last time I saw Janet Who she advised me she was a Missionary now. She looked 15 years older than me and I was tongue-tied. Not "allowed" to say anything that came to mind. I figured being a Missionary was pretty hard work. She didn't exactly complain. She just looked old and had a sad tired smile.
Sometimes I try to remember if I was good to Janet Who. I wish I'd always been good to her but I know I couldn't have been. I hope at least that I was never bad. I've vague memories of two little girls; hair in pigtails, hands on hips, bending slightly over, the better to reach the other with the charge of our bickering voices. She gave as good as she got but… I know Janet Who's father beat the boys, Janet's brothers. I don't know…maybe Janet too. It was after her mother's appendix burst while she was driving the car - her Mom ended up killing that little girl - that's when I really stopped seeing much of Janet Who. She just disappear. Up until then at least I ran into her on the street and then her Mom had that accident...and then she told me she was a Missionary...and then I never saw her again.
The thing is I can't shake the way she looked the last time I saw her; old and tired and worn. I didn't know what I could say to her. I wonder whatever happened to Janet Who? There's only a vapor thin tendril of her lurking here in this story. The smallest and most ethereal ghost of Janet Who.
I want her to be alive!
I don't want her to be lurking, lost in a sad story. I want her to have lived a life these past 30 years that provided her with peace. I want to have good thoughts of her doing her Missionary work and getting deep satisfaction from it. I want to know that she was surrounded by people who respected and loved and cared for her but…
We were Buddies Janet Who and I
I think if she'd ever found her life
Found even the path
Found a life with grace
A life that's full, that has laughter and friends and children and hope in it
I like to think she would have done
Sought me out
And so far