She was the first person my eyes went to when I walked into the room full of 20 people. Heck, she would’ve stood out in a room of 1,000.
She was about 70, soft peaches and cream complexion, bright almost-orange hair, vivid orange-red lipstick, jazzy orange-print blouse, rich deep-purple silk skirt, flamboyant suede purple heels. She was petite, around 5’2”, with a visual impact that filled the room.
Somehow it all worked. She was beautiful. Stunning.
I was teaching a communications class for an oil company in Houston. She had flown in from New Orleans to take it. She was way past the age for retirement, with no intention to retire ever. The company never wanted to see her go.
Her name was Jeannette. Her exuberant and totally charming personality matched her dazzling looks. She especially loved orange.
You know how sometimes, many years later, someone pops into your mind? Jeannette does often in mine. She left an impression on me that’s forever.
After a couple days working with her, and hardly being able to take my eyes off her, I said to her, “Jeannette, I’ve never seen or met anyone like you. You live in color. You are dazzling.”
She fixed me with her deep blue eyes, gave me a brilliant smile, and with a rich voice thick with southern drawl, distinctly pronounced, “My dear! I LIVE in superlatives!”
You have to imagine it said with a rich southern accent where “dear” is drawn out to 2 syllables and sounds like, “Dee-ah!” and “I” sounds like “Ah!”
It was true. Jeannette did nothing in half measures. She gave 100% to every conversation, every person. She was intensely interested in everything and everyone. She exuded a blazing passion for life, for every little thing.
Jeannette was magnetic. Always had a gaggle of people around her. Every age group loved her, young, old and in between. Wherever in the room you heard laughter, you knew Jeannette was smack in the middle of it.
I’ve never had a student like her and only wish I had 1,000 more.
Shortly after the class, she was romanced by and married another Houston student, a wonderful gentleman her age who fell madly in love and swept her off her feet. I have no doubt they’ve been happy every day of their lives. I can easily imagine her over morning coffee, loving him exuberantly and making it spectacular.
I don’t remember Jeannette’s last name, so there’s no hope of my getting in touch with her and letting her know how much meeting her has meant to me. I wish we had stayed in touch.
Living life in superlatives. Not big. The biggest. Not good, the best. The most. The finest. The grandest. The brightest. The happiest. The highest. Unafraid to reach for the all in life.
That’s what each moment was to her. And because she was contagious, that is what it was for everyone around her.
Jeannette has been a source of great inspiration to me. Her blazing self and personality busted every limit I ever put on how to behave in society.
What a gift to the world she was. And maybe still is, although it was many years ago.
Thank you, Jeannette, for your blazing exuberance in all things, for walking into my classroom, for creating a bright orange flame that lights up my life and forever will.
And you, dear reader, may superlatives sail into your life. And maybe a little orange too.