New year’s eve, 2010: It was when she put his hat on to start her song that his jaw dropped. That was the night her old family friend professed his undying love for her and proposed marriage (she politely declined). That was the night that I knew *JC could still “knock ‘em dead.”
Nothing could squelch her spunk. When her parents divorced, the independent little girl would cheerfully bloom wherever she was planted; whether it was with her eccentric aunt or her doting grandmother. Her childhood stories always entertain: riding on the running board of her dad’s car, collecting eggs from the chickens, playing cowboys and Indians with the three dogs, trying every one of the 24 ice cream flavors at Thompkins.
The night she met the handsome Latin from Manhattan (my dad), they had both decided to go out alone for a change, bored with the same old places their friends would usually dance. They both headed to Roseland, a top club of the day. She had inherited her moxie from her mom, whose advice she would remember when heading home back to New Jersey late at night: always walk near the street, not the buildings.
Their dance lasted 53 years, unfortunately interrupted by his cancer. In between, she rode the ups and downs of all his dreams and schemes as if on a bucking bronco, holding on and never willing to let go. At 5 feet 6 inches tall, my dad made up for his stature by living life large, always cognizant of his humble beginnings. Four children later and with a construction company of his own, our lives were still filled with the spontaneity of their youth; food and music always seemed to evolve into a party.
She remembered everything he had told her. His business acumen had rubbed off on JC and she was much more savvy than she was given credit for. This would come in handy as she maneuvered through life without him.
I can’t remember when she wasn’t the yin to my yang. Even though we were both born under the sign of Cancer, our personalities differ. It’s a symbiotic bond: I keep her organized and on track and she helps me loosen up and go with the flow. She always sees the glass as half full. I do too, but… Is it the proper glass to serve in? Is it clean? Do we have enough for company?
JC has put up with a lot from me through the years, softening the hard edges of my Type A personality, as only a mother can do. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for her, I would not be the person I am today. My style (If you’ve got it, flaunt it), my sense of humor (when you are feeling down, sing “Who Put the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder”) and my medical knowledge (drink water backward to get rid of the hiccups) are all thanks to JC.
How does she do it? I still am learning from her every day. There is something about living with a curiosity for life, with a spirit that renders you ageless, with that “…Fiddle Dee Dee, I’ll think about it tomorrow…” attitude that Scarlet O’Hara had in “Gone with the Wind,” with a continual excitement over even the smallest aspects in life that are contagious.
Helping each other steer through any obstacles, “JC and Me” is a force to reckon with. We have been known to outwit an unsuspecting opponent in zany situations (a la “I Love Lucy”). What would Lucy have been without Ethel? What would I be without JC?
*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.