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This is not how I planned on starting out WeblogMoPo2024 and I honestly wish I didn’t have to write this, but here we go.

On December 5th, 2023 I wrote about my penpals. That post began with:

Pikapal is my longest pen pal. She and I met on the Retro-Daze message board around ten years ago and have been in regular communication ever since. We bonded over our love of all things retro and since then we’ve kept each other abreast of our personal lives around once a month.

I last heard from Pikapal, aka Jennifer on November 22nd. It wasn’t unusual for us to write a little less over the holidays, as my birthday fell between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then her birthday was shortly there after. I had expected her to comment on my Pen Pal post, but she never did. However, the last I had heard she struggling with her parents and trying to get a job, two common themes in our emails.

I sent her a birthday email in January, which also went unanswered, and I’m sure everyone knows where this is going.

I noticed her blog has been on a sort of autopilot this year. Partially written posts have published almost daily missing images, or maybe they are just titles with little reminders to add text. She was a meticulous blogger and spent most of her time reflecting on years gone by. I kept telling myself, she was just busy, but tonight as I was updating my links page I decided to give her name a search. I didn’t find much, but I did find an obituary. She passed away on December 23rd a few weeks shy of her fortieth birthday.

I don’t think Jen had any friends. I don’t know if she was ever diagnosed formally with anything, but she was not a functioning adult. Her parents struggled financially and she had trouble finding a job and learning to drive, a goal I don’t think she ever accomplished.

She was fiercely private and I only knew her real name from her Gmail account. I only saw her once, when she shared a Facebook video of her meeting the local weatherman at the mall when the news was recording for Facebook Live.

She loved clowning. It was a goal of hers to become a clown and that was what most of our emails were discussing. She wrote fan fiction and fake clown instruction booklets, and she’d join online clown camps and newsletters. She’d keep me up-to-date on the latest thing that triggered the clown community (The success of IT a few years back really infuriated them) and she was always planning that one day, she’d get a job, save some money, become a clown, and get away from her parents.

Jen had this incredible talent of remembering the most specific details of the most random things like sitcom plots or rare television shows. I was always amazed at how she could pull out the most random tidbit of trivia when discussing something from the past, which is what she loved to do.

Most of her blogging (if it wasn’t about clowning) was about the past. She’d pour over old diaries, notebooks, and blogs and retell the stories from ten or twenty years ago. Yearly she also created weekly blogs that would chronicle TV shows, movies, video games, music videos, and other random trivia from the twenty years ago and thirty years ago. The only two posts she had created for 2024 prior to her passing were Twenty Music Videos from 1994 and Twenty Music Videos from 2004. Those posts were always great for finding forgotten songs from decades gone by.

Another favorite topic of hers was Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, the live action game show from the 90’s. She was a huge fan of it and spent time gushing over the Rockapellas as well as the host Greg Lee. She wrote fan-fiction about the show and watched old episodes on YouTube.

She was a huge Gwen Stefani fan and I remember sharing with her that I had bought a No Doubt VHS tape back in the day. She told she had the same tape and would practice standing while watching the tape so she could build up stamina to stand that long for a concert. It made me laugh.

Our relationship was interesting. I wouldn’t say we were close because I don’t think that is something she was able to be, but we shared our mutual love for all things retro and she was passionate about sharing her frustrations with the clowning community and her inability to find a job. And that is what makes this so difficult to write, because I didn’t know Jen. I mean, I think I may have known her more than a lot of people in a strange way, but I didn’t really know her.

She didn’t use social media much and outside of her blog and some posts on Retro-Daze there isn’t much left of her online. It saddens me to think how much she struggled her adult life, only to have it cut so short. I hope wherever she is now, she has found peace.

I’ll leave this blog with the final words she ever wrote me and I’ll dedicate my WeblogMoPo2024 my friend Pikapal. She wrote daily, I can manage to do it for thirty-one days.

Here are some more Thanksgiving themed retro tv shows: Supermarket Story; King of Queens, The One Where Underdog Gets Away; Friends, Caroline and the Balloon; Caroline in the City, and Thanks for Nothing; Martin.  I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving too.

Published in#WeblogPoMo2024

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