I loved my mother. Still do. It’s hard to believe she’s been gone over three decades now … passing all too young at age 57. Looking back makes me ponder one of many epiphanies age has graced me with. It’s hard to believe it’s been so long … yet it isn’t difficult to comprehend at all. Maybe truth becomes more contradictory as one’s life unfolds. It certainly has for me.
I won’t say Mom was typical of 1950’s mothers. She was …. yet she most certainly was not. (See what I mean?) Let’s just say when I was a young boy … a preteen … she had much in common with my friend’s mamas. She had 4 children in 5 years … not unusual for the times. And she stayed home with us. That was the norm as well. But hey … she couldn’t leave if she’d wanted to. Learning to drive and getting a license didn’t happen until Mom was 40 years old … and I was off at college. Again … not out of the ordinary.
But I do have plenty of memories to help me remember my mother. To this day, many of the happiest continue to lift me whenever I’m feeling down. One of my very favorites … maybe the fondest recollection of all … SICK DAY!
Far be it for me to suggest that as a boy I reveled in having an illness. The milder the malady the better the day off! It was her company I cherished … her nurturing and down to earth companionship.
On SICK DAY … after getting my brothers Jimmy and Donny … along with our youngest … my sister Kathy … safely on the school bus … Mom would make a delightfully cozy daybed on the davenport for me. I would settle in … with my grape juice in hand … as she tuned the TV to a show I thought I might like to watch. In those days, there were only the three major networks … so the decision didn’t take long. Mom would set up her ironing board close by and iron while we gazed upon some of the most delicious crap daytime television had to offer! There was Divorce Court (always good for a laugh or two) and Queen for a Day (exploiting … sometimes tear jerking). Or game shows like Beat the Clock (manic and funny) and Concentration (Arguably the most boring contest on TV. Host Hugh Downs said “No match …. And the board goes back” what seemed to be 100 times in 30 minutes). Of course, my mother had her favorite “soaps” … Search for Tomorrow, The Guiding Light and Secret Storm!
But our most favorite … the show both Mom and I loved watching together … was The Mike Douglas Show! Mike was a Clevelander and the show … before the entire station moved to Philadelphia in the early 60s … was LIVE … just 20 miles from where we sat. Mr. Douglas was an incredible crooner … and great interviewer … who never shied away from controversial guests. Over the years I saw Sonny and Cher, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones and John and Yoko on his show.
Once … when my sister, brothers and I were off for summer break, we actually watched Mike interview a scientist who helped develop the birth control pill. Mom was there as well and what an intriguing afternoon that was for the five of us!
But that’s a story for a different day.
It wasn’t always just watching TV with Mom on sick day either. Not if you were lucky enough to be home sick on a day when Frank the Milkman came! (For those youngsters out there, men used to drive small trucks filled with glass bottles of milk to your house back then.) Mom knew Frank from school. They grew up together. Right across the street from our house lived a huge Italian family … and of course they were Catholic and had like 35 kids … okay … 20. Frank was one of them. And while he was around the same age as Mom, the youngest D’Angelo was a mere year ahead of me in school. Their family spanned two generations. The patriarch … Tony … worked with my Dad in his backyard lawnmower repair shop at night. During the day Tony was employed by The Broken Wheel … a junkyard on the west side of Cleveland.
And how my Mom loved Frank the Milkman. He seemed quite fond of her as well. Mom might have been devoutly … privately religious … but she certainly was not above a little harmless flirtation. Besides … Frank the Milkman was one of the only other adults she’d see in a week’s time.
There was also Bruce Karnes … the Cop. Mom went to school with him too. One time … as a teenager … I was speeding (a little). Mom was riding with me. I got pulled over. This was my very first time and I was so nervous I handed the officer a gasoline credit card instead of my license. But then Mom saw it was her classmate and cooed, “Hiiiiiiiiii! Bruuuuuuce!” And she may … or may not … have been batting her eyelashes. Bruce Karnes the Cop smiled … sheepishly said, “Hello Anne, how are you?’ … handed me back my credit card, told me to slow down and walked back to his cruiser.
Another time my brother Donny was riding in a car full of his friends one hot summer night. They were lackadaisically lighting small firecrackers and throwing them out the windows when Bruce Karnes the Cop saw them. He immediately turned on his lights, did a U – turn and followed them into our driveway. Although the boys had hunkered down and turned off their headlights, Bruce sauntered over to their vehicle with a flashlight. Suddenly … Mom burst out of our front door melodically greeting the scene with a lilting “Hiiiiiiii Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!” Bruce Karnes the Cop waved, returned her greetings, got in his cruiser and drove away.
So … there was Frank the Milkman and Bruce Karnes the Cop. At least that’s all I know of. But there was one very important thing Frank had that Bruce did not. Frank had it every time he stopped at our house … on SICK DAY.
On those very special … lucky … sick days … when Frank pulled his Dairymen’s truck next to our house, Mom would flirt (of course) and buy a half gallon of chocolate … or butter pecan … whatever flavor tickled her fancy. Then she would bid Frank a fond ado … come back into the house … and set the ice cream on the butcher block. Mom would methodically peel the carton away from the ½ gallon of ice cream. She’d then pull a long butcher knife out of a drawer. But before her sweet, sugary, surgery procedure, Mom would look directly at me and very earnestly say, “Do NOT tell your brothers and sister about THIS! AND … especially DON’T tell your FATHER!”
My mother would then wield her weapon … taking proper care to cut the ½ gallon cube of ice cream into two equally enormous hunks … put them in their own big bowl … stick a large spoon in the top of each … and hand me my share of the treasure. The two of us then would resume our date with Mike Douglas in the living room enjoying our special “Frank the Milkman Sick Day” daytime dessert!
For over forty years … I entertained the notion that Mom did this delectable ice cream tradition with her first born and her first born only. I mean … c’mon … I WAS … after all … her favorite. Mom’s FAVORITE! And since she could never say that out loud … this was her way of telling me.
But then … one holiday … I don’t recall which … my siblings and I were sitting around after dinner reminiscing about Mom. I decide it was about time to come clean … to fess up. We were all grown and mature adults now … weren’t we? And they all must have figured out by now … and reconciled their conflicting feelings … that me being the oldest and all … that I was Mom’s favorite. Right?
So, I told them about the special Frank the Milkman Sick Days. I told them about Frank. I told them about the ice cream. I told them about Mom peeling away the carton … cutting an entire ½ gallon into two pieces … told them how Mom hid the ice cream container in the bottom of the trash. Told them how … just the two of us … Mom and I … ate an entire ½ gallon of ice cream. Told them her instructions to NOT TELL ANYONE!
My siblings looked at each other … tittered together … a bit smugly … certainly disrespectfully. Then … my sister … looking oh so earnest … with a touch of sarcasm in her voice … said, “OH. She did that with YOU too?” And they all laughed hysterically.
At first, I was shocked to hear I really wasn’t my Mom’s favorite child. It’s probably for the best.
But I do find some solace in assuming that maybe her favorite was not any of us kids … not Frank the Milkman … nor Bruce Karnes the Cop.
It was ICE CREAM!
The twit has tweeted
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twisty tweets indeed.
Tweets that tittered toward
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