Thursday, June 24, 2010

Éliane


I have lost a very good friend. Her name was Éliane.

We had been close for almost thirty years since our early time together in Idaho. She moved to Coeur d’Alene from New York City when we were young and made a strong impression on me from the start. The first words she ever spoke to me were actually “I hate you!” This had to do with the fact that we were polar opposites in almost every way and always valued and envied what the other person brought to the equation. She was exotic, big city, worldly, multi-lingual, outspoken and bold with black hair and lovely Latin looks. I was a fair skinned, Nordic ranch girl with a big family who kept my thoughts to myself much of the time and always made my decisions and acted in a cautious and studied way. We were like salt and sugar, Yin and Yang, Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder.

I remember once we went into Spokane to see an INXS concert together. After the concert (which was great, by the way), Éliane just HAD to get backstage to meet Michael Hutchence. She told me that she was going to figure out a way to do it, and I thought she was full of #$&%. I couldn’t imagine how a lowly high school student could talk her way backstage to rub elbows with one of the most popular bands of the time. I would never have dared. She did it…got his autograph, chatted, and I’m sure made an impression. There were many famous and interesting people that she got to meet over the years because she wasn’t afraid to ask. She was bold and forward, in a good way.

She was also a thoughtful and loyal friend. She never forgot a birthday or anniversary of mine, or anyone in my family. She liked to send little packages with things that she had set aside for us…sometimes odd things. Like the time that she sent a whole box full of magazines that she had picked up at a doctor’s office and gone through to dog ear the articles she thought I would be interested in. She’d send the kids Peeps and Lemonheads, Gore & Obama campaign pins for me, and miscellaneous other trinkets and treasures that she found for us all the time, like Post-It Notes from the Scottish Tourist Bureau or key rings with our initials. On my recent birthday she sent me 40 fresh tulips (her favorite flower) in a box, all the way from New York. She called to make sure they arrived safely and were put into water right away to keep them fresh. They did and they were. She paid attention to details.

Sometimes it could be exhausting to be her friend. I often felt like I should be reciprocating more with the little things…sending her care packages too, and just doing MORE. I mostly just tried to be there for her and listen when she needed someone to talk to, because she often did. For every vibrant life peak that Éliane had, there was also a valley. She could quickly become sullen and irritable and say things without thinking them through. When we were younger I poetically ascribed this to her fiery Latin nature, but as an adult I came to understand that it was really bouts of depression and mood swings that made her say and do some of the things she did. It made it hard for her to keep jobs for long, and to maintain healthy relationships with friends and much of her family…and to find someone to share her life with.

In the past few years she has been troubled a lot. She has moved many times, never quite feeling settled and good about where she was. I think now that it was a physical manifestation of how she felt inside. Nothing seemed to fit. She struggled to achieve the goals that she set for herself. Sometimes this was because she would self sabotage by not recognizing boundaries or having an effective social filter, but sometimes outside forces really did seem to conspire against her. She felt broken and unfixable.

I tried many times to get her to see herself as I did, full of great things to offer the world and hopeful prospects for her own future. She wanted to be a lawyer. She wanted to adopt a little girl from Columbia and be a mother someday. She wanted to have a home and family and mundane stability. She wanted to be the center of someone’s life. We talked and talked…she talked mostly. I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t have any magic words. I wish that I had been a better support in the past few months, that there had been more of my own reserves to devote to her, that I knew the right things to say and help fill the void she felt. But I didn’t. I hope she knows that she was important to me.

My prayers and these tangible memories go out into the ether for her. I loved her and will miss her dearly.



In Memory of Éliane

tulip photo courtesy of Vera Kratochvil

8 comments:

Tavish said...

Thank you, Anne. Eliane was her own person and definitely stood out in our Northern Idaho town. I remember her fishnet stockings and red dresses in French class - she intimidated me to begin with until I got to know her better and realized what a genuine and interesting person she was. Her candid comments bordered on being rude but were usually close to the mark - I don't think this won her favor with many teachers. After high school I remember her peaks and valleys caused by frustrations with her career and/or her latest romantic interest which would take on an obsessive quality. I remember being worried for her but also being wary of getting drawn into the drama. Your words above ring true - I imagine it was exhausting to be her friend at times, but you were there for her much more than most and I'm sure she felt your love and concern - thank you.

Cheryl Nichols said...

This is a great post Anne. I love your descriptions and stories about her. Thank you so much for sharing them with us. It is still hard to believe that she is gone.

Every time I see red lipstick, I think of Eliane. Seriously. I don't know of anyone that wore it better than she did either. :)

I have no doubt that Eliane definitely knew how much you cared about her. She was in a dark place and I wish (think many of us wish) that we could have done something to help. She was one of the most unique individuals I've ever known and I'll never forget her. I can only hope that she is at peace now.

Stacy said...

That was beautiful, Anne. Like Cheryl and Tavish, I will never forget the red lipstick, the fishnet stockings, her beautiful smile...

She saved my life once. I wonder if she even knew. Wish I'd been able to return that favor.

My heart breaks for your loss, Anne. Thank you for being her friend.

kris said...

Wow Anne, your write up is really moving. It sounds like you were a very dear friend to her. I always admired Eliane for her individuality and strength. I hope she has now found the peace she was searching for.
Take care,
Kris Navia

Shannon said...

Anne, this is beautiful!!! Though Eliane & I weren't "close" friends, we were friends. In fact, she was my husband's first friend when he moved here from Southern Idaho in the 9th grade. I remember sometimes she would be painfully guarded & at other times she was very open. I just always allowed her to have her space & didn't push or pry much. As tough as she was, I always saw this very fragile side to her - like a beautiful china tea cup. I think that's what I loved the most about her - her complexity. She fascinated me at times. I cannot imagine the pain she must have been feeling. But I'm thankful that she had her deep friendship with you. From reading this post, I get a sense that you somehow centered her & allowed her a safety valve to unleash some of the things she was feeling. You may not feel that you had the right "words", but you provided her with exactly what she needed - a safe place & a shoulder to lean on. That is priceless to someone who feels alone. I am so very sorry for your loss, Anne.
Blessings,
Shannon (Thayer) Coles

ASBloom said...

Thanks for all your supportive comments. It's good to remember her...

Anonymous said...

I just now heard the news and am deeply saddened. I first met Eliane maybe 10 years ago. She was a friend of my sister who first met her in LA, they lived next to each other.

We soon became friends as she bopped around the country from LA to Boston and then to NY. We spent many evenings together in NY (I was working there) perhaps 5 years ago. We would try a new restaurant each evening and walk all over the city. Her passion she wore on her sleeve, and that's what made her so enjoyable to be around. She embraced life even if she wasn't always enamored by it.

I had always hoped that she would find peace and happiness and perhaps she finally has. May she rest in peace and know that her passion that defined her personality at its finest has rubbed off on many others. I will miss her.

Ted Putnam

Allan Wasserman said...

I only learned of this in the past week---I had lost touch with Eliane---I adored her---I am so shock and saddened.
If anyone can contact me about Eliane:
allanbwasserman@gmail.com

Thanks,
Allan Wasserman