Ponder this:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Remembering Joanne


A Joanne lookalike from Steve Oatway photography


Joanne Weaver was my favorite friend for as long a while as six or seven year old children have favorite friends.  At my sixth birthday party she gave me a brown suede-and-leather pouch with a drawstring. It was my favorite present that year; I loved the shape of it and the way it closed efficiently, in one movement. (That was the birthday year that my father arranged a treasure hunt, leaving written clues to the next location in the trail. "Well, well, well...," the only clue I remember, took us to the hand pump in the back yard where the next mysterious note waited.)
She lived on the second floor of a building that wasn't a house. The first floor was an unoccupied storefront with posts and a worn and saggy-slanting board-floor porch at the front. The second floor where the Weaver family lived had a porch at the back with the clothesline pulleyed from it across the back yard.  When I picture the place now my memory is of a crowd of identical freckled Weaver children with bowl-cut hair, all in motion in their dusty yard, all wildly laughing and yelling. 
Joanne fascinated me, not least because although she would often confide long exciting tales to me in her hurried breathless rusty-hoarse voice, through lips too busy to manage the saliva that accumulated in the corners of her mouth and was at intervals impatiently hissed up and caught by her teeth, I could barely understand her speech. She used words like "canny" and "nobbut" and "owt" and "nowt" and "ower" for "over." She contracted "the" to "t'" in every instance. "My ma tol' my brudder t'go t'bed," so the last three words sounded like "goatbed." She would finish her story and throw back her head and laugh, raucous, cueing me that it was time to acknowledge a punchline. 
I'm sure she was the first person to ever say "take a piss" to me. It wasn't a rude phrase in Joanne's world: it was her language. 
When she'd finished telling me a story, she would take a breath and huff it out, close her lips into a slant one-corner-pucker and concentrate on a point far in the distance with eyebrows raised, a  fatalistic expression. She was tiny and intensely focused, even in stillness.
Joanne was capable of a perfect adult-style disgust.  "Fool! Bah!" as she would turn about and stomp away, washerwoman style, sweeping one nail-bitten hand behind her in dismissal. 
Her face could instantly brighten into complete benevolence, too . . . chin tucked down, eyes looking up from under her straight brows, mouth still and crescent-curved.
Joanne evaporated from my world after a year or two. 
It's odd that I think of her so often; I knew her for so short a time.
I wonder what ever happened to her. 

18 comments:

Lord Wellbourne said...

Wonderful memoir! I hope you're collecting these. I was amazed how the reference to the back porch and clothesline pulleys evoked very happy memories of my grandmother's house. I used to put embarrassing 'unmentionables' on the line and pulley it out to the middle where everyone in town could see them. I was a stinker. :-0

Barb said...

Hi June, Why is it that your writing often awakens memories of my own past? This made me think of "Ruthie" - when my father died, the teacher told the class not to talk about the death to me. Ruthie walked me to school my first day back and told me what the teacher had dictated, so that I wouldn't feel bad when nobody asked me about what was the most tragic event in my young life. She saved me - I wonder where she is, too - maybe somewhere with Joanne.

Steve Oatway said...

Hey June !!

How bizarre to come across one of my photographs like this, and how touched I am that you found it and used it to illustrate your memoir, and of course doubly grateful that you credited me !!. The photograph is actually of a boy called Barney who I photographed back in 2008 - he was with his sister (Martha) and this is probably the only decent shot I got of him.

Good luck with the rest of your writing

Steve

June said...

LW and Barb, I consider it the highest and most touching compliment to have brought your own memories to mind.

Mr. Oatway!!! What are the chances??? I'm sure "your" Barney's DNA must be somehow related to that of "my" Weavers...the similarity of features and coloring is so great. By the way, I found it by Googling "Yorkshire children," and nearly fainted when I saw that face, so like Joanne's.
Before a certain age, boys and girls when at rest, look no different from each other.

The world has become a much smaller and friendlier place via the internet, has it not?

Wanda said...

Your writing is superb June!
If Mr. Oatway can find you by chance, I imagine you can find Joanne too...and Barb, Ruthie.

Carolynn said...

What a wonderfully buoyant and exuberant post about an equally vivacious child. I wonder what became of her, as well. I imagine her slaying dragons somewhere.

Have you attempted to find her on Facebook? Many a long lost friend have found each other through that venue.

The energy of your thoughts may draw her to you. Stranger things have happened....do let us know!

June said...

Oh! Wanda! Do you think so? Reallllly? I feel like poor ol' Sally Field at the Oscars years ago!

Carolynn, Joanne would be a dragonslayer for sure. I'm so pleased that you got that sense of her from this! You know...the idea that she might appear from somewhere if I wrote this kept niggling at my mind yesterday. ...that I needed to get this out there now. It strikes me as almost (almost) unsurprising that Mr. Oatway would turn up ONE DAY after I found his photo. I felt that somebody would be drawn from some unexpected place. There's some kind of vibe here, it seems.

Lord Wellbourne said...

The 'vibe' is you, dear June. I find it warmly gratifying that you are almost unaware of how much your paint-by-word canvases touch people. I am sentimental but not easily moved. You move me. You are always sitting on my shoulder whenever I work on a post. Oscar Wilde on one side and you on the other. Keeps me balanced. And the banter is highly entertaining! Yes, I suppose I do hear voices.............

Friko said...

me too, me too; if only we could ever find out about long-gone but not forgotten friends. you paint a lovely and immediate picture of another girl in another time.

June said...

Oh, dear lord, LW. If I'm sitting on your shoulder....get a back brace! Quickly!

Lord Wellbourne said...

She ain't heavy....she's my blog-mate...........

They're not broad but my shoulders are strong. Oscar is far worse. He refuses to sit still.

JOE TODD said...

June I really enjoyed your story. Life is certainly filled with mysteries.. Still playing catch up with my computer. I've found a number of old friends by using Facebook

Susan said...

Missy, what a wonderful post. Y'all know that with the internets, you can find anyone. Really. Take care and start the search.

June said...

I've been thinking about all the suggestions for finding Joanne, and I have to say: I'm not sure I want to go out looking for her.
I like the fifty-year-old memory of her.

Ladybird World Mother said...

I LOVE this post... I can just see Joanne, and her thoughtful face... I agree with you about not being sure about finding her. Sometimes the memories are just as good. And they say, some friends are for a reason and some for a season. Dont know who They are, or if I have the quote right, but it makes sense to me! Love reading through your blog. Your About Me is like reading about myself. Glad to find a double here in blogland!

√ Abraham Lincoln said...

You could try Twitter and Facebook. All sorts of people show up. lol

Lord Wellbourne said...

I agree with Ladybird--the present-day reality and actuality of what we fondly remember can be very disheartening. I speak from experience. Embrace the memory but leave today's truth to sort itself out. If you love something, set it free.......etc....

Red said...

Two words: "Zabba search". Good luck. Sometimes people don't want to be found. Sometimes the rewards are sweet joy in knowing your friend has lived a good life.