John was a war child born during the Second World War. "The bombing was going on over our heads when I was born." he used to say. In his heart, he never grew up from being a boy in England in the times of Noel Coward. Tessie O'Shea and BBC Radio. His cynicism was only skin deep, an armor to hide his vulnerable self. Family birthdays and Xmas's were very big on his list. Around my birthday in 1979. John and I went to a Madison Avenue antique shop to try a sofa and a few other things. I wasn't aware that John was also frantically looking for a birthday gift for me at the time. I use the expression "frantically" not because there was any reason for him to be frantic. He was just that way... an emotionally charged person. The sofa was a genuine art deco period piece. It was beautiful. But it turned out that the one in the shop was actually not for sale."If you like it, we'll make the exact same thing for you." It sounded like a con to me. "So he's gonna make a new antique sofa for me? ...nice", I thought. "But I like this one", I said. "No, this is not for sale." "I see." I delicately bounced up and down on the sofa. half hoping that one of the legs might give in so he would have to sell that one to me. I heard later from John that, while I was bouncing on the sofa, hequickly took the man aside and asked to have a White Chess Set (myartwork) made out of 18th century Indian Ivory Chess Sets. "And this is the inscription I want." John whispered to the guy and scribbled themessage on a piece of paper. "Happy Birthday love xxx From the King tothe Queen." The man, however, read, "Happy Birthday love xxx From the Kids to the Queen," and ordered the inscription accordingly. When Johnsaw that on the Chess Set, he was not a very happy man. John: "Kids,what kids?" The man: “Wasn’t it supposed to be from you and your son?"John would have chopped the guy's head off... if only he was back inEngland in the Elizabethan Times. "It's from the King, silly!" "Oh, theKing..."Both of us were either too busy or together too much to find a time to secretly go shopping for a surprise gift. So many times we relied on people around us to get us things. After that incident of walking intothat antique shop, we both started to rely on that silly man to get things for each other. I got John a 1950's Jukebox for his birthday. He loved it. Xmas came. This would be the last Xmas we would spend together. The Jukebox was set up in one of the rooms in our apartment.It was a totally empty room with no furniture. But the brightly lit Jukebox instantly made the whole room look like a happening disco. Elliot Mints, the only friend we had left by then, and John made anelegant invitation card for the Xmas Ball. John delivered the card to me and a box of gardenias. "Madam..." "Oh, how beautiful!" I was impressed. John gave me an elegant kiss, like in the movies. He wore a suit. I dressed up for the occasion, too, wearing a long, black velvet dress John got for me when we were in England. John and I danced and Elliot looked on. Nobody else was invited. John called it the world's most exclusive club. He was very, very, very happy. We were about to enter 1980, our last year together.The intrigues surrounding us were getting thicker as we stepped into1980. We felt it. "But the eye of the storm is very quiet" John said. We had great laughs together. We were partners at work and family at home. We loved working together and we loved our son, Sean. We understood each other in such a way, that no elaborate explaining was ever necessary...though we liked discussing our ideas and plans for the near and distant future. There was an acute sense that time was accelerating, and that we were caught in a spiral that was moving at the speed of light. Looking back, it was the happiest and therefore the most tragic period ofour lives. As John said in his song, "You don't know what you got, until you lose it." We thought we knew... but we really didn't.
Yoko Ono Lennon
Illustration by John Lennon, colored by Yoko Ono Lennon.from John Lennon Anthology CD box set booklet.