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Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

Since I didn’t grow up with the Flapper, her character can be elusive. I’m back to my book, writing about her and the intersection of a story I covered back in NJ. A story about a mobster and a long line of Irish women. So this Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share with you a snippet of the book, from my older sister Kay’s point of view:

Men found it hard to look away from Mama’s legs when she sat up at the counter. She had this way of crossing them, her tiny feet balancing on the brass bar that ran along the smooth wooden baseboard. Stockings rolled down, T-straps punctuated her ankles like a proper Flapper. She smoked lazily, holding court with all the customers. My Daddy was a pharmacist and his Rexall drug store was our family’s meeting place after school.

Every day my little brother Mikey and I would stroll over for ice cream, and to see if Daddy needed any help. I’m the oldest and only girl after Shirley moved out, so I’m the sugar in his coffee. Only lately Daddy was having trouble moving his left arm, and sometimes he had headaches. Then I would get to pound some powders into pills for him in the back office. I was just heading there when I heard my name.

“Katy honey, bring me that new lotion that came in last week.”

Mama stabbed out the cigarette, willing me to her. It was her pleading, sweet voice. The one you didn’t want to cross. She was pregnant now and found it easier to ask me for all kinds of favors. Mikey was sitting in the store window, sunlight sparkling off his blond head, reading a Superman comic. He was tired of being the baby in the family.

“Mama can I name the baby, please? Can I name her pretty please?” 

His voice was pleading. The baby was due in September, and we all wanted a girl with red hair. Mikey would name her Rose.

As I searched for the new lotion, I watched Mama twirling her fingers in her heavy lap; never still, pivoting around in the counter seat, flashing a smile so brilliant you’d think a light bulb went off. There was a cold, sweating Coke in front of her, and the fan was aimed at her neck. She was waiting for a new life, never imagining what was to come.

Of course this was the summer of 1948 when she was pregnant with me, her sixth and last child. You could hear Frank Sinatra crooning in the background, and I always imagined Reese Witherspoon playing her part in a movie. The Year of Living Dangerously was about to begin. She had left the city lights behind. The Flapper was a complicated Mother, full of contradictions and forged out of steel. She outlived three husbands and worked hard all her life. Still I loved her and moved in with her when I was twelve.

Happy Mother’s Day to all! We are not perfect, we are all of us complicated women. But above all, #LoveTrumpsHate

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