Friday, February 25, 2011

Jennifer and the Peeps

Last night Alex brought me home some Peeps. They looked to him like the sort of thing I'd like. Marshmallow coated in sugar. How can you go wrong with a combination like that?

As I wolfed them down, I told him that the Peeps actually made me sad because a friend of mine played tricks with Peeps. She was a co-worker who had a sense of humor that was so incredibly brilliant that she could have me keeled over and peeing my pants with just two well-chosen words and the right facial expression. From the moment we met, I loved her. She's gone now. But every time I see a Peeps, I think of her.

Jennifer Burnham was introduced to me by her boss, Nancy, when we worked at Sterling Commerce (aka The Worst Company in the Whole Wide World, now a division of IBM). Jen had worked there previously and was returning to the company for some reason no one could understand...except that maybe she was suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome.

When Nancy introduced us, she smiled and said, "You two are going to love each other."

At that point, Jen looked at me earnestly and asked, "Wanna see my boobs?"

It was love at first sight. I've never met a woman who could make me laugh the way she did...and at that time I worked with a lot of women who made me laugh. Nancy, the company's web mistress, had a brilliantly dry wit and would say the most wonderfully outrageous things while looking perfectly serene. Sharon, our PR lady, had big innocent blue eyes that would absolutely gleam when she'd say something completely warped and unexpected. Our boss, Val, was an absolute riot who each morning when she arrived would say to us, "Okay...where's the plate of poop you're going to dump on me?" We'd happily comply by telling her what the enemy (mostly a woman we referred to as The Devil) had done to us in the past 12 hours. But as funny as all these women were, no one was quite like Jen.

One year, when the Peeps came out, she played tricks with them all over our department. Poor Sharon screamed when she walked into a bathroom and saw yellow and pink things floating in the toilet. (She didn't know they were water-logged Peeps.)

Jen hid Peeps everywhere. She created little scenes using Peeps and props. For about a week, Jen kept us entertained as she did unconscionable things to her Peeps.

When Jen died of cancer a few years later, I asked the florist to please make a floral arrangement that included Peeps. A little perplexed, she complied. And everyone who attended the funeral saw that great big arrangement decorated with Peeps and they thought of Jen and her tricks. It made them laugh.

I like to think that Jen's in heaven now, watching us go through our daily charades and making outrageous comments. Maybe she's floating on a cloud of marshmallow, playing a harp while she sings hymns -- peppering them with curses that would embarrass a sailor. That's the sort of thing she'd do to keep the other angels laughing.

Everyone in the world should meet a person like Jen. Someone who'll make you laugh by pointing out the absurdity of life, and keeping you entertained simply by being. Someone who doesn't care for pretension and superficiality. Someone who is really, really real.

Someone who, if she saw me looking sad right now, would slap me upside the head and demand, "What are you so mopey for? I'm the one who's dead!"


Jackie said...

What a story...what a great that you met and how sad that she was called "home" so young. One of my former co-workers just passed last week but she was 60 (heart)so most were just briefly shocked....she also didn't have the great sense of the absurd that Jen appears to have had. So sorry for your loss, thanks for sharing, and I'll say a prayer for Jen and her family every time I see a "peep"..

Deborah Knight said...

Thanks you so much, Jackie. I'm sorry for your loss, too.