“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” is a song from the 1972 Elton John album Honky Château. Back when 8 track was the sound system of choice, my Mom had one in her car and this album was always playing. She loved to drive and we often set off for the beach with the windows down and the volume cranked. I have vivid memories of her cruising down the highway, long-legged and tan with sand on her toes and the scent of Coppertone thick in the heat of a Canadian summer. I’m not alone in loving this song…many people consider it one of Elton’s best. He himself called Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters “one of my all-time favorites,” and with such a body of work to choose from this is high praise indeed.
A couple of years ago, my status on Facebook was ‘Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters’ – nothing more – just the title. My friend Jen commented and started a back and forth of referencing this song in our friendship. Jen occasionally writes on my wall ‘heard this and thought of you’ or takes a picture of her stereo display showing the song and sends it to me. So now, whenever I hear it, I think of Coppertone, long summer days, my Mom and Jen.
The crazy thing is…I’ve never met Jen. In the months after Em was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome I was exasperated to find there were very few people who could give me any idea of what to do…practically. The friends I made initially were new to this themselves, and though we muddled on together what we really needed was someone with experience who could give us insight regarding which therapies we needed and how often. Who could dish the goods on what works, and what doesn’t. It’s not unusual for doctors to have limited experience of Rett, and all too often therapists are reading from seriously outdated material. I couldn’t find anyone who would just give it to me straight.
Until I ‘met’ Jen. Jen who doesn’t do anything but straight. Jen came into my life exactly when I needed her most. Like a 10 week rollover lottery win! She could tell me what I needed to know and tell it in a way that left me empowered and ready for action. She explained the science behind the research, she gave me hints and tips and advice, but most valuable of all…she taught me to trust my gut. Jen isn’t one to toot her own horn, she brushes off compliments with a laugh, but after a few hours on the phone with her my face aches from smiling.
And I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you,
I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you
I am thankful there’s people out there like Jen. People who give from their wealth of experience, and from the riches of personality. People who make up a network of parents that connect in this way, from a distance through social media. Who share the joy and celebration when something extraordinary happens; like when Emlyn – who doesn’t speak – spoke a few words. People who offer virtual hugs and encouragement during difficult times; like a week long hospital stay in January when messages and phone calls kept my emotional tank full and my engine running.
I could never have imagined this crazy and beautiful life.
And I thank the Lord for the people I have found,
I thank the Lord for the people I have found.
For my Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters but especially for ‘Jenny from the Block’