Wednesday, August 15, 2007
So Help Me God
So much happened in history today, August 15, that it's hard to believe it can all be crammed into one day.
Yes, this was V-J Day, when Japan surrendered in 1945 and the day the Panama Canal opened to traffic in 1914, and work on the Berlin Wall began in 1961, and the day that Malcolm whacked Macbeth in 1057.
But this was also my mother's birthday, and though she's been gone for five years now, that's the most important thing about this day for me.
As I look over the list of events for this day, I'm struck by the fact that in 1947, the Ferrari made its racing debut in Pescara, Italy. My mother's maiden name was Ferrari, and no, we're not related to that Ferrari, so please don't ask.
People ask that question a lot as a joke, and I laugh along with them. Every now and then, however some bonehead will seriously ask me if I'm related to the famous automotive family and I just stare at them in disbelief.
Yeah, schmuck, of course, I'm related to the Ferrari family. That's why I've been driving used Toyotas for most of my life, that's why I'm now riding the subways in Brooklyn, instead of chasing bikini-clad honeys on the Riveria.
That's why I'm hanging around dimwits like you, because I'm a European auto tycoon. Oy...
The other interesting thing that happened on August 15 was the release of The Wizard of Oz, which was probably my mother's second favorite movie behind Gone With the Wind.
My loved Judy Garland and she loved this movie. It's amazing that the both debuted on the same day, so to speak.
Every year when The Wizard of Oz came on TV we had to watch it. I hated the film for the longest time, because it had singing and it was about a girl, but I gradually got to enjoy it, thought years went by before I admitted that to my mother.
There's a family legend about Judy Garland and my mom. It seems years ago, back when Judy here variety show, our TV set crapped out on us, so the only working set in the house was downstairs in my grandmother's apartment.
My father and brothers wanted to see Bonanza, but my mom wanted to see Judy Garland. This was in the days before VCR's and Tivo, so we had a crisis on our hands here.
A Better Life Through Television
I suspect my mom thought she'd win this battle, since it was her mother's set after all, and why the hell would an elderly Italian lady want to watch a freaking cowboy show? Well, grandma quickly shot notion down.
"I'm no wanna watch Judy Garlick," she declared, "I wanna watch Bonanza!"
In the immortal words of Maxwell Smart, sorry about that, mom. My own theory is that grandma had a thing for Hoss Cartwrigh, but I can't be sure.
I wish I had some definitive memories of my mother's birthday celebrations, but it's very difficult to recall any. What I remember most vividly is how she went out of her way to make sure we enjoyed our birthdays.
Even when we well into adulthood, she made sure we got cards in the mail and a dinner complete with the cake, candles, and a chorus of "Happy Birthday."
I know we took her out for dinner and to shows, but those memories are overwhelmed by the image of her running the various parties and dinners for her children.
And I find it particularly annoying that on this day, of all days, my sister and I had to go an office in downtown Brooklyn and give testimonty in a lawsuit. I'm not going to give any details at this point, as the case has not been settled yet.
But I had to take time off for work on this sweltering hot day, go to an office the size of phone booth, thanks to the rabid air-conditioning system, damn near freeze to death while answering a series of questions.
On my mother's birthday we have to deal with this? I was so close to the courthouse today, but I didn't see any sign of justice.
It got so cold we had to open a window to let warm air in, but that also let in the music of a lunchtime jazz band playing down 9 stories below.
As I answered the lawyer's questions, I was struck by how the court reporter could take down my words while tapping her foot to the music from the street. Does that qualify as multi-tasking?
We finally got done, after blowing half the day, and I went on to my office for a few hours.
I keep wishing for a few minutes--one minute, even--to speak with my mother. I'd just want to tell her how my I love her. I'd apologize for all the times I hurt her feelings, or argued with her, or made her worry with my lousy grades in school, or my equally lousy career choices.
And I'd tell her how much I miss her, how much she meant to me. I'd thank her for the things she taught me, for being a light in a very dark world. She showed me what true goodness really is and I will be eternally grateful for that.
If I think about her more often, the skunks and hustlers in my life become smaller and smaller.
So, yes, I'll gladly raise right hand and testify that my mother was my best friend and I still love her with all my heart. Happy birthday, Mom. Thank you.
And that's the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help me God.