I don’t often write personal posts, but today I uncovered a cache of photos from my past, and I have to share this story with you.
Here I am as a toddler, my hand mysteriously extended in mid air.
On the back of the photo, my mother wrote: Beth holding hands with “Jenny Wren” her important imaginary friend! We lived in Milton, Mass. and I was the first born. According to my mother, I insisted on this portrait of myself and Jenny Wren. At the ripe old age of three, with my baby sister maybe six months old, I can imagine I felt the need for a someone who I could really talk to about losing my mother’s attention, someone who listened, someone to hold hands with when I felt scared.
And there were lots of things to be scared about. The world was changing everywhere you looked — civil rights, women’s lib, Vietnam. I remember the nightly news reports with strange names that I whispered to Jenny because I liked how they rolled off my tongue: Ho Chi Minh … My Lai… I remember running naked through the sprinkler until I heard news about the arrests of streakers which scared me into a bathing suit. I remember the Great Dane next door, especially after our paper girl arrived on the doorstep with her thigh ripped open from his giant teeth. Yes, there was plenty of scary stuff back then.
Little could I imagine that 25 years later, I would meet my friend Jenny, and she would become a real-life Jenny Wren for me. I kind of think I was preparing for her here in this photo, making room in my growing brain for a friend so loyal that she would do anything for me (and visa versa).
The real-life Jenny Wren and I found each other in Los Angeles in the 1990’s, discovered that we were both from Massachusetts, and recalled that we had once met through the odd world of high school speech team. We found ourselves thousands of miles from the cobbled lanes of old Boston, wandering among the sushi bars, nail salons, parking lots and palm trees of Hollywood. Should it surprise you that we clung to each other like Mork and Mindy?
Everyone should have a friend like my Jenny Wren. She is warm, caring, kind and a great listener. You can count on her to tell it to you straight. She will support you to the ends of the earth with her spirited laugh and wide smile. Imaginative, talented, a great storyteller — my Jenny Wren is so great, she became a successful film writer and director. She is everything that little girl in the top photo dreamed of in the perfect friend.
Jenny Wren and I have some pretty great plans about growing old together (after our husbands are gone — it happens, you have to plan!) We will make sure to have plenty of younger friends, so we keep in touch with pop culture. I will teach her to knit, she will teach me charades. We will buy audiobooks when our eyes fail. She is a killer poker player, so we will go on the pro circuit — she will play and I will handle her marketing. Granny Jenny? That is ratings gold! We will eat out, laugh plenty and always hold hands in icy weather.
In case you are wondering what the real Jenny Wren looks like, here is the photo also discovered today that inspired this post. It’s the day before my wedding, back when Jenny was my “new” friend. She looks older than she did when we were three, but that is to be expected when you move from imaginary to real.
The real Jenny Wren is now traveling the world with her husband and two kids (you can learn more about her amazing journey on her blog AYeartoThink.com). While we are miles apart, and in different time zones, she is always in my heart. In fact, if I miss her, I can reach out my hand and feel hers right there, warm and calm, squeezing me back.
Just like when I was three.