Thursday, March 15, 2007

Happy Birthday, Janet!

Everyone has friends who touch their lives, who change them and enrich them and make them smile. One of mine is my friend Janet.

She came into my life because she's a writer, too. We had each been writing in our own solitary little rooms (or actually in the middle of busy households with four kids apiece, a dog in her case, a rabbit in mine, husbands -- one apiece which was plenty -- and assorted obligations which didn't go away because we also thought we were writers. So I guess we weren't really very solitary -- except for the brain-doing-the-writing part).

But it was the brain-doing-the-writing part, for each of us, that needed a friend, that needed some other brain that understood why we would anguish for hours about whether Joe would ask Liv to go to Vienna with him (and if she would go) and whether Shauna would let Blake stay at her bed-and-breakfast because he was clearly a Man With Issues she wanted no part of.

Inasmuch as Joe and Liv and Blake and Shauna weren't "real" no one else cared what they did. And talking about them made everyone else's eyes roll into the back of his (or her) head. But Janet's didn't roll. Janet stayed wide awake. She even considered Joe and Liv's travel plans (or lack of them) a fair topic of conversation. Janet cared for Joe and Liv, and I cared for Blake and Shauna -- and our writing lives took on a social dimension. Someone cared. We had support! Hallelujah!

It was wonderful. This was way before the internet and, in fact, before RWA had got itself out of Texas and opened its doors to the rest of the world. It was a time when we were really isolated and such things as blogs and emails and instant messages were someone's pipe dream. So a friend who wrote was a rare and cherished being.

The friendship went beyond writing. Pretty soon she was providing moral support not only for Joe and Liv (and subsequent heroes and heroines) but also for me as my oldest kids became teenagers (hers had been there, done that -- all except the last one).

Janet was the first person I called when I sold my first book. And I was incredibly annoyed when she wasn't home! How could she NOT be home?!!! So I tried again and again and again. All day. She was NEVER gone all day. Where was she? And how could she NOT be there that day of all days?

Well, about 6 pm I discovered she was. Had been home all day. In my excitement, I'd spent the day calling the wrong number.

She forgave me -- and that night she and her husband came over to celebrate with us, bringing a bottle of champagne!

Later that year we went to our first RWA conference together in Detroit back in the stone age. I had just sold, she was still writing Blake and Shauna and doing freelance non-fiction pieces. We were both more than a little overwhelmed by all the hoopla at a national conference (and that one had only 600 or so attendees). The Canadians were celebrating whatever it is they celebrate on July 1 (Dominion day?) and there were amazing fireworks across the river. It was unforgettable.

On our way home (it was a long day's drive from Detroit -- a very long day's drive) we talked imaginary people again, both lapsing into silences that went on for miles as she contemplated what her characters might be doing, and I wrestled with Susan, the sportwriter, who was soon going to be complicating Miles's life.

No one else would have put up with those lengthy silences. No one else -- except another writer -- would have been perfectly content to do the same. And then to happily start discussing again when one of us reached a conclusion and needed to "try it out" by talking about it.

It was a terrible blow when Janet turned up on my doorstep one morning a few years later and said they were moving away. It felt like someone had died. I suspect it was like this when people joined the wagon trains and went west and you never knew if you were going to see them again.

Yes, I know there are phones. And we used them. And yes, she did only move a couple of hours away, and yes, I still did get to see her. She didn't get ambushed on the trail! And even though now she has moved even farther away -- to Minnesota, God forbid! -- I still see her once or twice a year (with luck). But I will always miss having her near. There is nothing like sitting down with a cup of tea and visiting with a dear friend, and Janet is one of the dearest.

Happy birthday, Janet. Thank you for being such a wonderful part of my life.


Blogger Kate Walker said...

Happy Birthday Janet. Like me, you're lucky to have a friend like Anne - the sort of friend who enriches life (even if she does write emails to cats!)


16 March, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Writing emails to cats is one of the better, not to mention more productive, things I do with my days. Is Sid still celebrating his birthday with the Queen?

16 March, 2007  

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