Georgann Turner’s version of meeting Jan (written in 2012):
Twenty-four years ago I was getting ready to go do a “junior year” abroad. I was no spring chicken. I was thirty-six years old, a divorced mother of an eleven-year-old and a thirteen-year-old, and a bit of a late bloomer.
I LOVED school. I had just won a journalism scholarship and received it at a meeting held at a journalism teacher’s house. Her name was Jan Haag. And she was younger than me. We liked each other, so she kept inviting me to her classes even though I wasn’t enrolled in any of them. She knew everyone. She was also the editor of a magazine and her guest speakers were amazing—Pulitzer Prize winners, famous photographers, name brand journalists. So we got to know each other a bit.
And one day I said to her, “I’m going to Wales. If you write to me, I’ll be your best friend.” And I think she thought I meant it.
As it turned out, she had a trip planned to Wales around the same time that I was planning to arrive there. I’d only been there less than a week when she popped in for a visit. After that, we started writing to each other. And the first letter I got from Jan was an epiphany—I heard her voice. I understood what writing was—it was putting your voice on the page. So when I wrote to her, I put my voice on the page. And it was easy. I just talked to her.
Jan’s memory of this:
The way I recall it, Georgann suggested that we write to each other when I was visiting her in Swansea, Wales. She and Jena had just arrived and were living a two-story flat where, to get heat, they had to insert coins in a device on the wall like the kind you might find on washers and dryers in laundromats. I was traveling through the UK by train in the fall of 1988 with my best childhood buddy, Sue Lester, when Georgann said (in Sue’s presence), “If you write to me, I’ll be your best friend.”
I may have this wrong about when and where she delivered that memorable line. But we both remembered her saying it because it was typically Georgann funny, and it made us both laugh.
Sue didn’t take offense, as I recall, and, because I liked Georgann, too, I came home and went to the post office to buy single sheets of thin blue paper called Aerogrammes. I think they cost about 50 cents, which was pricy postage at the time. You wrote on one side of it, then folded it into a rectangle, licked and sealed the gummed sides, and addressed it to your friend overseas.
We sent our Aerogrammes back and forth across the pond for the two years that Georgann was in Swansea finishing her bachelor’s degree in politics. I still have her letters—her voice bounding off the page, a fine writer, though she didn’t know that yet—great treasures that they are. They chart the beginnings of our friendship that neither of us imagined would last for the rest of her life—as she adopted three children, first as a single parent and later with her second husband, Ron—more than 30 years of love.
As she would’ve said, “How lucky were we?” Very!