My mom and I are sitting on her balcony outside her apartment in Belhaven Heights. She's lounging in a plastic deck chair, wearing a white Mexican wedding dress and sipping a can of Miller Light out of a huggie. She's jangled and sparkly talking about her upcoming trip to (in a fake backwoods accent) "New Yoork City!?!," a place she's always dreamed of going. Her mother was a fashion buyer for the Emporium in the '50s and '60s and would make long excursions to the Big Apple on shopping expeditions for work. Mom has pined to make the trip ever since.
She was born Janice Ouida Jordan in 1950 in the "old" Baptist hospital and has ended up living and working within a mile of there. She works in the core curriculum office of Millsaps College, where she acquired her Bachelors of Arts in philosophy with a minor in psychology almost 30 years after she began her college career. After graduating from Wingfield High School in 1968, she attended the University of Southern Mississippi for one year and then "flunked out." Momma says that it just wasn't where she wanted to be. She moved home to Jackson and started working at Avis Car Rental. She met my dad through her older brother Billy and married him "because I wanted a baby." (Me!) They were married "off and on for almost 30 years," and had another child, my brother Jack, who is 27.
When she was 35 and newly divorced, she decided to go back to school. With one child not quite 6 and another not quite 2, she had a tough row to hoe. Our family was making it OK until "Reaganomics hit," as she puts it. The economy was terrible, especially for young single mothers, so we all went "home to Momma and Daddy." There, she suffered again from a chronic illness that had moved in and out of her life for years and would continue to plague her for years to come. "It's probably not what I will die from," she says. But it contributes to what the philosophy of life she's developed: love every minute, eat it with both hands, and a feed a never-dying hunger for knowledge.
I asked Momma how she thought people would describe her. "A bitch," she laughs "but in a good way." People from St. Columb's Episcopal Church, where she is a lay minister, would probably say that she is tireless in her service. People in her Middle Eastern Belly Dancing class (she learned in 1975, after Jack was born) would say that she is a fantastic dance instructor. People at Millsaps would say that she is devoted to her job and is a great help to the staff and students there.
I would just say she's Momma.
I'd say Janice is one of the coolest ladies ever to grace John Stone Hall.
- Jamie Dickson
Jamie, I'd have to agree with you wholeheartedly. My mom is cool! Aren't the rest of you jealous?