The Serpentine Muse, Vol 22, No. 3, 2006
by M.E. Rich
Time passes too quickly. Birthdays and anniversaries accumulate to such an extent that often it’s hard to remember what we’re celebrating; some observances are inherently double-edged, a compound of remembrance and regret. Lost friends have faded away from us; newer companions know these women only by their names, not their natures. Vitality, warmth, and distinction cannot be conveyed fully once those who possessed them have gone before, but we have all experienced the depth of friendship these ASH shared with us.
I think most of you knew Patricia Moran, but I want also to recall Lisa Jones Jennes, an original picatrice, who died twenty years ago of brain cancer at a very young thirty-eight years of age. Like Pat, she was a beloved only child of great promise and gifts. Leaving Albertus Magnus in 1970, she moved to Boston’s South Shore where she taught, edited, married, divorced, married again, and relocated to North Carolina. With typical bravado, Lisa learned to pilot a commuter ferryboat across Boston Harbor, earning her captain’s license—the first given to a woman by the company. She looked just like the actress Jane Alexander (left), tall and spare, with a bright and inquisitive gaze. Second in her class at Albertus, she wrote wonderful letters and goofy pastiches mixing the Beatles, Captain Kirk, and the Canon.
Picture, if you will, the nascent ASH—Ev, Pat, Linda, Mary Ellen One, Mary Ellen Two, and Lisa—strolling through New Haven on an October night, dressed in our approximations of Halloween costumes. In a vaguely Chekhovian mode, I wore a coat trimmed with Persian lamb and Cossack boots, while Lisa strode briskly in knickers, bomber jacket, and World War I leather flying ace helmet. Or conjure up a vision of the two of us in the dark of night channeling the spirit of Bill Baring-Gould via Ouija board to the delight—and dismay—of our elders, who knew the august BSI. We fenced in the hallways and up the sweeping circular stairway of our mansion-dormitory, we had very serious conversations about Poetry, and she did a justly famous one-woman version of Ahmal and the Night Visitors complete with costume changes and props. What the nuns made of us I can’t imagine. She was fierce and funny and true and, if any one of us could have changed the world, I’d have bet all my money on Lisa.
The playwright Lillian Hellman wrote that, “you really only care what a few people think. Only they…will stand behind your chair, for good or bad, forever.” Pat Moran (left) has been gone for a decade now, but she will always stand behind me. Her friendship, generosity, and compassion were cherished by many of us here tonight. But not everyone knew how deliciously snide she was, how quick with a quip, how her chortle was The Definitive Chortle. She had a kind of Roz Russell breeziness, with her trademark “Hiya kid” and snappy banter.
In college, we reveled in episodes of Star Trek and fortuitously dubbed her “Bones” after the acerbic Dr. Leonard McCoy, a name—and attitude—she savored. Pat earned her Master’s degree at the New School. Eventually she too moved to Boston, married, divorced, and then came back home to us in New York. Bones had great style and a glorious smile, infectious and buoyant. And here’s the unbelievable truth: we were friends for thirty years, from coeds to cohorts, and not one harsh word ever passed between us. Oh, we disagreed and we disapproved, but we never argued, and that’s a heartfelt testimony to her loyalty, patience, and equanimity.
There were so many adventures that Bones, Ev, and I shared, often with Bridget (Linda Patterson, that is); we larked about Canada, California, Florida, Santa Fe, Bermuda, and London. We flew, sometimes in decadent first class; we “trained” in tiny sleeping compartments; we drove. A particularly piquant weekend was spent in a Massachusetts seaside village, a “dry” village, mind you, at a rambling manse that Bones had discovered—a refuge for Victorian factory girls of limited means in need of salt sea air and fresh vegetables. We snuck wine, cupcakes, and Doritos® into our sleeping porch, feeling like the hoydens of St. Trinian’s.
There was the trip to Chapel Hill (left) in search of the memorial bench for Lisa to which we’d contributed; Bridget came down from Virginia; we checked into adjoining rooms at a swank hostelry and got a huge rental car. We searched the Duke University gardens up, down, and sideways, and never found Lisa’s bench. So we gave up and headed to the outlet mall—we felt she would have approved.
On a back road, a tempting sign advertised the Slugs in the Pines Restaurant and it was hard to resist a visit; Bones always wistfully hoped we’d someday be able to find it again, a peculiar Brigadoon. Much shopping was accomplished in honor of Lisa, and the capacious trunk of the rental was so jam-packed with retail rewards that there is somewhere a photo of ASH arrayed on either side of it with bags of treasure piled up as in Aladdin’s cave.
We feasted and toasted that evening at the hotel’s posh restaurant and goggled at the leftovers wrapped elegantly in tin foil shaped into aluminum swans. Another photo somewhere in the archives captures Pat helplessly giggling while holding the silver bird aloft. We have photos, too, of the Uffan trip to the BBC to appear in an odd tribute to Holmes. I think we each got twenty quid and blew it on an Indian meal and a room party in our upscale Mayfair hotel.
Pat’s grin is a feature of many photos and many memories. I’ll say it again—she had a fabulous smile. Her worsening diabetes had to have brought her pain and apprehension, but you’d never have guessed that; she fought her illness until the day she received her dual kidney-pancreas transplant at NYU. She never faltered, despite the steroidal chipmunk cheeks, despite the increasing strain on her system, despite the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center—she descended eighty-six flights of stairs that February day. And she won through. With an irony that Bones herself would have appreciated, she died of an aneurysm that struck her without warning, completely unforeseen. Unlike Lisa, Pat never knew what hit her and, for that, we are grateful beyond measure.
Pat and Lisa and too many other Adventuresses have left us their courage, their wit, and their incandescence which are not forgotten. They were luminous and they were conductors of light—lightness of heart and of spirit. Carlos Fuentes recently said that to deal with loss, “you bring the person you love inside you…you make her live within you.” So tonight we remember our dear ones who were bright and loving and, in the spirit of valediction, vow to keep their memory green—et lux perpetua luceat eis et nobis.