As we celebrate Mothers Day, I found myself doing what many of us are probably doing; reflecting back on “Memories of Mom”.
I hope that many of you still have your Moms with you. Our Mom has been gone for over thirty-five years now, which is hard for me to believe. She passed away at a young age after a long and courageous battle with cancer. However, my reflections today were not of the morbid kind, as they focused on her life and vitality.
As my title states, Mom was a New York City girl through and through. Born into a
large Italian family, ( 4 brothers, 3 sisters) she embraced and thrived in New York’s vibrant life.
It is my understanding that in her early years, she was quite the “tomboy”, able to hang with the guys in many sports, including Tennis and Baseball. There was plenty of evidence of her athleticism as I grew up. Mom was the one that taught me how to throw and catch a ball. That is by no means a reflection on Dad, in that many times, Dad was working three jobs to keep us afloat. He just didn’t have the time. Mom very effectively took this role upon herself. I remember tossing a baseball with Mom when I was probably no more than eleven or so. It was pretty humbling to have a mother that had a stronger arm than I did!
She also taught me how to play tennis. Many a time her powerful forehand literally knocked the racket from my hand. I remember her in her white shorts and top encouraging me to “try again”. Oh, by the way… while I was in sneakers, she would be playing wearing freakin’ flip- flops!
Oh, and how she loved to walk around that City! We walked everywhere! From our apartment on west 12 street, ( later west 17 street) there were very few places she considered out of range for a good, fast walk. Washington Square Park to Bleeker Street. Christopher street to Times Square, we walked. Mind you, my very early memories are of her pushing a stroller with my little Brother (Rob) bundled securely in. I never was able to keep up with her. Her strong, long stride had me practically running to keep up. As long as she had her health, this was an aspect of her, and Dad, for that matter, that never changed. A walk was a workout.
Like Dad, Mom liked to “dress-up”. Looking her best when she left the house was important to her. Coupled with Dads passion for being dressed nicely, they made a pretty damned good looking couple when going out. As I have mentioned in other posts, there was never an abundance of money floating around in our family, and to this day, it amazes me how elegant and dapper they looked while wearing very inexpensive clothing! “Going out” for them was anything from a walk in Greenwich Village after Church to going to the local Pizza place. Whenever Mom left the apartment, she looked as though she was going “somewhere”.
How she loved the holidays!! Cooking and preparing and planning. How she was able to cook for, feed and seat the entire family in our one bathroom, three and a half room apartment still baffle me. The damned kitchen wasn’t even big enough to hold more than three people at a time… yet, she managed to cook for 12 on Christmas Eve.
She did have a few funny quirks that I remember well. When we lived on west 12 street she, on occasion, would make liver and onions for dinner. I hated liver and onions… I despised liver and onions. Yet, somehow Mom was under the impression that I liked them. So, when she cooked it for dinner (many times) I would always be clearly distressed. Inevitably, she would give me that very concerned, sincere look that Rob and I came to know so well and ask:
“Donny, what’s wrong….? Don’t you want to eat??”
Me: “No thank you… I don’t feel hungry “
Mom: “But… I made them because you like them!”
I never, ever figured out where she got the notion that I liked them, but this was the same scenario over and over!
I really wouldn’t be surprised if it was Rob who told her to make liver and onions because I liked them so much… wouldn’t put it past him.
Then there was her legendary inability to get the name of any Hollywood star correct. She would totally abort the name to the point that none of us had any clue whom she was speaking of. Please see Post titled “Frondo Frone” to get a close look at this hilarious idiosyncrasy.
Ok, final memory of Mom that gave Dad, Rob and I many laughs.
Mom was never anywhere near being a drinker. Perhaps a sip or two of a glass of wine here or there, but that was basically it. When Rob and I reached the age, we would enjoy having a drink or two with Dad, especially around a holiday or family event. Rob was basically a Bourbon guy, Dad was a Scotch guy and I could enjoy either. We would always try to get Mom to have one with us, or to just take a taste. Being the trooper that she was, she at times offered to take a sip of Dads scotch. Her face contorted into hideous expressions and one would think we had just given her Drano to drink. She would gag and cough and wave the drink away.
One year, after going through the hopeless ritual of trying to get her to taste or have one, she said something to the effect of;
“That tastes horrible!!! Maybe I would like it if it tasted more “fruity”. Rob looked at me, I looked at Rob and we both looked at Dad.
He smiled: “you want something fruity, something fruity coming right up!”
Now, dad always kept a decent supply of fruit juices in the apartment, so all he did was mix a concoction of whiskey and juice on ice and brought it to Mom. She looked at it suspiciously as he handed it to her and we watched with bated breath. She carefully took the first sip and swallowed. No hideous expression. She smacked her lips a few times and then said:
“That’s not bad… it’s fruity!!”
She took forever to drink it, but then actually asked for another! We looked in amazement at each other as dad hurried to the kitchen to mix another.
The really hilarious part was that after the first one, which was very weak, Mom almost immediately started slurring her words and an odd, glassy look came to her usually very bright and vibrant eyes.
As she took her first sip of drink number two, all she could mumble and slur was;
“Good….fruity… nice fruity”
Within minutes she was asleep in her chair. We looked at each other and broke into hysterical laughter.
From that time on…. especially after Mom passed away, whenever we would have a cocktail together, one of us would inevitably hold their glass in the air and say:
“Fruity! It’s good”
Then we would toast a pretty damned good mom who loved her family beyond anything in this world.