Thursday, February 26, 2015

A woman named Joan

Crafts by the other Joan
Last year while sorting for a move, I opened a box of memories. Inside were two bulging scrapbooks, its unstuck film pages dropping dried daisies, wallet-sized school smiles, a surprise “Shhh, it’s a secret!” sixteenth-birthday invitation, and handwritten notes such as “evil green eyes” and “missing the beach.”  Under the scrapbooks were pictures of our drill team squad, red and gold event notices, ribbons and pom-pom fray, a smiling stuffed giraffe with eyelashes, a construction paper tasseled boot, encouraging poems from a woman named Joan.

Wheaton High drill team 1978
Many people dislike their own names, but I’ve always loved mine. There were no other Joans in any of my grade school classes as far as I’m aware and I didn’t know any in college. The famous Joans were gutsy or clever or fun or, in some cases, all three. Saintly badass d’Arc comes to mind, as do Plowright, Fontaine, Crawford, Rivers, Collins and Cusack. Joan Jett apparently rocked my high school, but before my time. And of course the brilliant Didion, whose prose I discovered late, which means there’s more for lucky me to read.

The mom of my dearest friend of forty years was gutsy and clever and fun. A transplanted New Yorker, she was coifed and on-the-go to Mahjong or Wednesday bowling with wine-colored lip liner, blue-shaded eyes and appliqu├ęd jackets. During junior high and high school, it was this mom who buoyed me when my own high-strung and detached mother was unapproachable.

Parade day

She kissed me as if I were her own child, locked eyes when asking a question, nodded and smiled as she got the answer. She crafted spirit gifts long before today’s high school football and cheerleading moms were born, wrote poetry that gave us courage to march and shake to a 70’s beat while hundreds of our peers looked on, inspired my stubborn self to perform in 20-degree parades and remembered everything – birthdays, pom-pom routine songs, favorite candies.

She was a vibrant and caring role model for her three children, inspiring smiles and warm hearts, facing medical challenges with steadfast fortitude. She was a supportive wife to a man with whom she shared an infinite optimism and energy and devoted daughter to her mother (called Nana), whom she called every day without fail, and father, who at 77-years-old was among the hundred hostages in the 1977 B'nai B'rith headquarters takeover. When she became a nana, her joy multiplied—by seven.

Joan and Karen, captain and co-captain

Until dementia cruelly stole her memory, her health, her spirit. Last month the Joan with whom I shared a name passed away. I’ve been thinking about her a lot, about her voice, about her twinkling eyes, about her spirit, about what she meant to me and so many others. About the memory she left behind.


Pamela Hammonds said...

What a lovely tribute to your Joan. I'm sure her family shares your memories and your grief. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Joan Mora said...

Thanks Pamela. As you well know, It's the details that keep those we love alive.

Karen Mills said...

Joan, words can not even begin to explain how much your tribute to my mom means to me. Your memories of many years ago are amazing and so spot on! My mom loved you as her own and even over the past years when dementia controlled her life, I always felt that mom "remembered" whenever I shared pictures from her past, which always included you.
You truly are a gem, Joan. Thank you so very much.
I love you <3

Joan Mora said...

I hope my words bring you some comfort - I haven't written anything you didn't know, but I hope you know how many hearts your mom touched. She was happy making others smile. Love you!

Sharon McNett said...

Dear Joan--I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this beautiful tribute to my Mom. Your heartfelt words, feelings and memories touched my heart so much. I know she loved you as much as you loved her. My Mom was a wonderful lady, who I think about every day, miss so much already and will love forever.

Joan, my Mom was so blessed to share her name with you.

Thanks again, Joan. I appreciate it so much.

I love you,

Joan Mora said...

So happy you were touched by my tribute. I loved writing it because I don't think I'd thought about Mahjong or bowling in a long time, but it was so much of who your mom was - a friend to so many. Love you, too, Sharon!