I Was Married in Donna Summers House

January 18, 2012
I’ve been married three times. In my first two marriages, I think I was too restless to stay put for long. Husbands one and two all had good qualities, and I am friendly with both to this day, but marriage to husband number three endured the longest, and since I learned some useful skills in my practice marriages, I don’t plan on trying for a forth. 
I met my current husband, Bob, when I answered an ad in a magazine. This was before the more sophisticated match making techniques of the cyber era.  The ad read something like “Retired, good looking gentleman looking for companionable relationship…”  I was a senior officer on Wall Street and I wasn’t dating at the time. Middle aged, married enough times and raising a teenaged daughter in a one hundred year old house in Brooklyn, I was more concerned about protecting my California-bred daughter from wannabe mobsters and stripping paint from woodwork than I was in dating.
My secretary wouldn’t let me rest on my past marriage laurels, “Everyone should have a guy,” was a popular refrain in the office. Even the mailroom guy started to ask me if I was dating, and did I want to meet his cousin who owned a deli.
“Here, I even circled some interesting ads,” my secretary said, and laid a copy of New York Magazine on my desk.
“Trudy, they’re all serial rapists and con men,” I said.
“My cousin met her husband through an ad.” She sounded exasperated and I was tempted to throw her out of my office before the conversation escalated. Trudy is a Long Islander, giving her a sense of entitlement that people from the five boroughs of the city usually don’t have. She tended to expect to get her way most of the time. Whenever I stymied her, she was known to stamp her feet like a child. I put up with her because she was good at her job, and she took good care of me. But I wasn’t about to allow her to orchestrate my love life.
“I’m too busy.”
“Just pick one, I’ll write the letter, I’ll take your picture, and we’ll see what happens.”
“I’ll even field the calls.”
“Good, you can go on the dates too.
A few days later, Trudy smiled broadly when I walked into the office. “What are you so happy about?” I asked her.
“I made a lunch date for you.”
“Why does that make you happy? You make lunch dates for me all the time. Who is it?”
“His name is Bob,” she answered.
“Who’s he with?” Usually she wasn’t so coy. Business lunches were nearly a daily occurrence, and part of the reason I had put on weight since moving to New York.
“He’s with himself,” and she hooted with laughter.
“Trudy, have you been drinking?” I looked at her coffee mug, and it looked like the usual sludge from the office kitchen.
“You are going on a date.” 
I could feel my face getting hot. I must have looked angry too, because Trudy’s eyes opened wider and she wheeled her chair back from her desk and held up her hands. “Don’t get mad.”
“Too late.”
“Just listen, he sounds so nice on the phone. He’s retired and he says he’s good looking.”
“He says?”
“Well that’s what the ad says. He’s coming down here today.” The last sentence was barely audible.
“Call him and cancel.”
“Oh no, he would be so disappointed. He wants to hear about your woodwork and your horses and Cindy.”
“Did you tell him my life story? Did you tell him I’m getting fat and I’ve been married twice? What have you been up to ‘Miss Can’t Mind Her Own Business’?”
“I had to make the letter interesting so people would answer. I didn’t make dates with the other men, just Bob.”
“The other men?” She opened her mouth and I held up my hands. “No, don’t tell me, I don’t want to hear.”
The rest of the morning I was busy at my desk until Trudy stuck her head into my office around noon. “He’s here,” she said.
“I told you to cancel.”
“He’s too nice; he’s down in the lobby.”
“You know you’ve gone too far this time,” I said.
“You’ll thank me.”
When I went down to the lobby, there was only one man standing in front of the security desk. He was wearing a car coat with wooden toggle buttons that looked like something someone would wear on the range in Montana. He peered at me for a minute and then walked up to me. Mr. Toggle Coat was Bob. I’ve tried to remember if I was gracious when we met, but I suspect I was still fuming at Trudy and may have taken it out on my future husband. At least for the first few minutes. Then, his courtly good manners and gentle humor took me by surprise, and I had a good time at lunch. So much so, I agreed to meet him for dinner in  few days later.
Trudy had a smug look on her face when I returned to the office, but I wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction of telling her I enjoyed myself just as she promised. My only remark as I passed her desk, “Don’t do that again.”
“You can’t fool me, I know you had a good time.”
I stopped and looked at her. “And how do you know that?”
“I followed you and watched you and Bob through the mirror at the bar.”
“You did what?”
“You know, in case he was a serial rapist or a con man.” I heard her sniggering behind me all the way into my office.
Oh, and the wedding at Donna Summers house?  I’ll tell you about it next time.

Categories: Wednesday - Memoir.

Rah! Rah! Rah!

July 21, 2011

Categories: Wednesday - Memoir.

Sing for Us Sharon

July 8, 2011

I am a reluctant singer. I don’t even sing in the shower. When I was a kid, I had to sing whenever company visited.  I hated it so much, I would feel sick to my stomach until the performance was over. I developed a vibrato when I was nine or ten and my parents took it as a sign that I could sing. So, whenever my aunts or uncles would visit, or even if we went to one of their houses, I would be asked to sing. I always knew someone would ask sooner or later, and until the request came, I couldn’t eat anything, just waiting.

“Sharon, sing for us.”

 I would look at my parents, and they would be smiling, nodding their heads to encourage me. I don’t know if they ever knew how I hated to sing. They gave me singing lessons and I learned to sing O Sole Mio in Italian, and some other songs I don’t remember. Finally the singing teacher suggested I take piano lessons instead. My parents must have been disappointed, but I wasn’t.


Categories: Wednesday - Memoir.

Somersaults In the Spring

June 29, 2011

When I was almost nine, I came home for lunch on a Fall day and crawled into my bed.

My Mom came into my room, “Why are you in bed?”

“I don’t feel good.”

She put her hand on my forehead, “You’re very warm.” I didn’t leave my bed again until the following Spring.  I had rheumatic fever.

Some nights I would dream of a thick pot of something that looked like Cream of Wheat. A big wooden spoon stirred it around and around.  Then I would wake up, and my Daddy would be sitting by my bed, so I knew the fever was back again.

It’s hard for a nine-year-old to stay in bed. I wanted desperately to get up. Sometimes, when my Mom would take my temperature, I would put the blanket over my head so I could shake the thermometer down, hoping I could make it be normal. She never said anything, just suppressed a smile, and made me stop burrowing in the bed clothes until she was satisfied she had an accurate reading. My Mom did  something for me, for which I am forever grateful. She lugged home shopping bags full of books from the library. That’s when I learned to love to read. There was no television in our house then, and books were my only way to leave the bed I was sentenced to occupy.

Every other day Dr. Gibbs would come to our house to check on me. “How do you feel?”

“All right. Can I get up now?”

He would shake his head, “Turn over.” I had to lay on my stomach, pull my pajama bottoms down and he would give me a shot of penicillin. He was a rumpled  sort of man,  his clothing and his face looked like they needed to be ironed. His voice was gruff, but I was never afraid of him. He told me once that if I did a somersault every day for the rest of my life, I would  be healthy. I thought it would be wonderful to do a somersault on the grass outside our house. I lived in a twin bed, so there was little room to practice a somersault.  I determined that I would start somersaulting as soon as I was free.

Every morning my Daddy would make scrambled eggs for me. I had to eat in bed on a little tray table. Whenever I  couldn’t finish my breakfast, I would dump the left-overs in a box of toys that was underneath the skirted dressing table next to my bed. One night I heard a scratching under the dressing table and I screamed.

Daddy came running, “Sharon, what’s wrong?”

I could hardly speak, I was so frightened. I was curled up at the foot of my bed as far as I could get from the scratching under the dressing table. “Daddy…” I pointed wordlessly.  He found my stash of left over eggs and a small mouse in the box. He didn’t say anything, but I felt terrible.

Finally, one day in May, on my ninth birthday, my Daddy said he had a surprise. Mom brought in a new dress and laid in on my bed, and took out some underwear and socks from my drawer. She helped me dress. My shoes no longer fit and she slid my slippers on my feet and then she stood and held out her hand. I felt anxious, I didn’t know what was happening. Mom lead me out the back door where Daddy was standing beside a metal lawn chair. It had an arched red seat and back and white arms and legs.

“You can sit out here in the sun for an hour every day,” Mom said.

“But you have to stay in the chair,” Daddy added.

I just looked at the green grass, thinking of how I would somersault everyday for the rest of my life.

Categories: Wednesday - Memoir.