Today’s my birthday.
And a perfect time to reflect on the life of Ellen Jayne Wheeler. First cousin to my Dad, Ross Cummings. Second cousin to me and my siblings, I think that’s how it works?
And a heartfelt way to support my ‘cuz’ Donnie, Don. Who, by some miracle, I got to know when I moved to OKC to live with Dad and Pam as a young ado going to the same junior high Harding, which was about a 1,000 times bigger than the one I went to in Holdenville (there was even an underground pool!). And who accepted me unconditionally, on the spot. Was and is always a sweetheart. 😉
My first impression of Ellen Jayne: quite intimidating. She was a soloist at times at Crown Heights, and I would see her, sitting (perfect posture) up front with a demeanor and beauty the reminded me of Grace Kelly. That carried over to her time as my piano teacher. Strict, but encouraging. I didn’t get a lot of encouragement at home (sibling stuff about noise and picking me up), but she was always supportive. I even did a recital with (ahem) six-year-olds. That’s tough.Bela Bartok, Bela Bartok, my frienemy. But that was also her way of saying, ‘You can do this, but you have to work at it.’ At least the judges said I had the hands and enthusiasm to move forward. Which, I hope justified her faith (and time spent) in me.
As an adult, I discovered a whole new side to Ellen Jayne, which I also cherish.
In the late ’90s, she and J. Clyde came to Minneapolis, and I had the pleasure of meeting them for tea and giving them a tour that included the St. Paul Cathedral. The two photos are included on this site.
This short visit was actually a pivotal event in my life.
As I watched these two people in love banter and laugh together (both on the same level, giving as good as they got) I thought, “Wow, that’s lovely. I hope to find that!”
And, yes, the two lovebirds/songbirds did break out in a spontaneous show tune, and I … beamed. I wouldn’t have wanted or expected anything else.
That, in the best way I can, sums up my experiences and impressions of my cousin Ellen Jayne. And of course, her relationship with J. Clyde.
Having reviewed the lovely, lovely tribute from Don and the online memorial (images and videos) organized by Keegan (thank you!), I am even more inspired by this woman.
Ellen Jayne lived an *amazing* life, with a level of determination, commitment, talent, and adorable joie de vivre (OK, everybody dance now!) that she shared with all who came in contact with her.
Big, big hugs and kisses to you, Ellen Jayne. And thank you so much for being a part of our lives.