"Nanny" Joan Ridgewell
April 14, 1916 to August 3, 2008
This picture is, as far as I know, the last portrait taken of Nanny Joan. This was taken July 18, 2008. I think she looks beautiful in this picture... eventually I will make a print of this picture and I will put it up in our house...
Now let me tell you a little bit about Nanny Joan and the relationship that she and I had.
Nanny Joan was born Joan Smith in the UK. She grew up there... with her sister Doris, who, for the record, I have never met. Her father was an acrobat and was asked to do not one, but two royal command performances. Trust me, that is a big deal. At some point she met and eventually married Ronald Ridgewell. Ron was a dixieland jazz piano player of some note. He is the piano player on several famous Dixieland Jazz albums, and was asked several times to record his own album. He always declined... He was also a memeber of the Royal Air Force during WWII. In fact, Joan was enourmously pregnant with their first and only child, Carole, during the German Blitz on London. She told me a story on several occasions of being chased down the street by a German plane while he shot away behind her. I am inclined to believe her since she was not the sort of person to lie to make her life seem interesting. She didnt care if you thought her life was interesting. She had loved living her life and that was all that mattered.
While Carole was still a child they moved to Cananda. I believe that they moved for Rons non-piano playing job.... but I am not sure. Then when Carole was an adult they moved again to the US. Through a series of events that I am foggy on the details of they moved to California and lived in several places in the LA county area. Then sometime while Owen was a youngish teenager (he is 30 now) Ron died of stomach cancer. He died in his home with his wife at his side. That is just how things work in Owens family. There is no question of who is going to care for a sick or elderly or sick and elderly person. Family does it. Period. Nanny Joan continued to live on her own until her sight started to fade. Then she moved in with Owens family. She was always included in everything. In alot of ways (from my perspective anyhow) she became the driving spirit of the Bailey household. She and Carole were the best of friends, having the kind of mother daughter relationship that many people dream about having. There wasnt a thing they couldnt talk about. There were no disagreements that couldnt be solved with the phrase "perhaps you are right." I spent alot of time in that house in the last 7 years and the biggest fight I ever hear them have was over wether or not Joan said she wanted her milk before or after dinner.
So now we are up to about where I come into the scene. The first time I met Nanny Joan was when I was 19. I had just met Owen at shinai maybe 4 days before... He and I had just spent the entire night up on the roof of the school across the street from his parents house. We sat up there and talked until the sun came up... and as it did I kissed him for the first time. That is right! I made the first move! Well anyways... We came down off the roof cause we didnt want to get in trouble for being up there and I really had to pee. So he took me downstairs to his house to use the restroom. Well when I was done he decided that he had to go too. While I was waiting for him to do his thing I was sitting in his parents living room. My first impression of that living room was "wow! That is alot of books in one room! They could open a library!" Well anyways I am sitting there and all of a sudden a door I hadnt even seen opens and out comes this little tiny woman. I mean little tiny too... when I met Owen Joan was 4'11 and weighed maybe 90lbs. I stood up to introduce myself and she says "sit down love, I was wondering when you were going to show up. I was starting to worry you were never going to get here, or that he had already blown it." As you can imagine I was taken back. Here was this woman I had never met telling me that she had been waiting for me. I have met people who had gifts before.... but I had never had anyone tell me they were waiting for me! Nanny Joan and I talked for a while. I suspect that Owen listened from the stairs... but I cant prove it so whatever. We talked about Owen mostly. It was like she was prepping me for becoming a member of the family. It was cool. Then Owen came down and took a very silly picture of Joan. Joan vogued for the picture! I dont have it in a digital format or I would post it.
Well anyhow... Owen and I saw each other occasionally over the next year. I dated two or three people and he dated two or three people at a time... then we finally started dating. The first time Owen officially brought me home for dinner as his girlfriend Nanny Joan said "Only about a year now." I thought nothing of it. I figured that she must be having another side conversation.... those happen alot at the Bailey house. She wasnt. She was telling everyone that there was only about a year left before I became a member of the family on paper.... about 10 months later we were married and about 5 months after that we had Alexander.... yes I was pregnant when we got married... but we were already engaged before we got pregnant.
Nanny Joan was always there to talk to me when Owen was making my frusterated... She had fantastic advice about being a wife and a mother. She was fantastic at stopping a fight dead in its tracks. One time Owen and I were having a rather large fight in the living room while everyone else was in the kitchen and she came down and very seriously said "if you two dont stop fighting I am going to have to do my tassle dance just to break the tension!" And yes she did mean tassle as in those pasties that have tassles on the end. She had none of that "older generation so I cant talk about sex or sex related things" stuff! One of my favorite stories that she told me is of a picture she has somewhere in boxes of stuff... She and Ron went to visit a nudest colony and Ron took a picture of her standing fully clothed between two very naked men. They thought it was fantastic! She very happiliy informed me that one of the men had had a peircing right throught the tip of his.... well you get the picture. She thought the whole thing was hysterical.
Nanny Joan was also always there to help us financially if we needed it. She lived off of almost nothing because she lived with her daughter and ate very little. So she was always able to help us pay rent if we were a little short... or there to help Carole if she and Don wanted to make a home improvement.
She gave everything she had to her family. Love, wisdom, and a compassionate ear and tongue. She made me smile everytime I was around her.
I was only priveliged to know her for a short time... but in that time she made my life better.