“Tell me again, Mom,” Ava pleaded. “Tell me how Grandma met Grandpa.”
“Do you want the fairy tale version or the truth, little girl?” joked Lottie, my sister.
“Leave it alone, Lottie,” I warned.
I curled up on the couch next to Ava, wondering if my daughter, like me, would one day recall verbatim my Mom’s fairy tale-caliber love story. Or would she embrace Lottie’s cynical revisionist version? Lottie and I each clung to our respective interpretations of this family lore, desperate for individuality.
I’d grown up with my mom’s romantic musings echoing in my head – true love, a deep abiding faith, love at first sight. I’d longed for a similarly dramatic experience, an equally compelling legacy to hand down to my children.
Mom was dating Bob, a Navy ensign from her Little Italy neighborhood in Chicago. They wrote to each other faithfully for two years while Bob was stationed in Japan. Bob wrote heartfelt sentiments and dreamed of marrying Mom when he returned home; Mom enjoyed the root beer floats Bob treated her to while on leave. And wrote to Joe, a man she’d never met, in Italy.
“One man could never satisfy Mom’s needs,” Lottie teased. “Ava, your Grandma had a way with words and men on two continents lusted after her … letters.”
I flashed Lottie my “shut the fuck up” look, with the usual result.
At Christmastime that year, Joe proposed a rendezvous. Bob proposed an engagement.
“Our Mom, breaking hearts across the Atlantic,” joked Lottie.
“Auntie, Japan is in the Pacific Ocean,” Ava reminded.
Confused and overwhelmed, Mom asked God for a sign. The sign came in the form of a tiny gold fig leaf charm, a symbol of love, enclosed in a Christmas card from Joe.
“Better luck next time, Bobby boy!” Lottie exclaimed, dissolving into giggles. “The poor schmuk.”
“Ignore her,” I chided.
Because of immigration restrictions, Joe could not enter the US. He and Mom instead met in Mexico. From the airplane window, Mom spotted an old man waving in her direction.
“This is my favorite part,” said Ava. “Grandma refused to get off the plane. She knew right away she didn’t like him and told the flight attendant to take her home!”
“Mom’s one moment of sanity in this sordid tale,” teased Lottie. “Ava, for future reference, big diamonds are the only signs worth paying attention to.”
Acknowledging my annoyance, Lottie lifted her hands in mock surrender, “Just sayin’!”
The flight attendant escorted Mom off the plane, and Joe turned out to be a different man with a warm, infectious smile.
Joe, immediately smitten, professed his love that night. Mom took longer to warm up.
“They got married 10 days later,” Ava reported with a triumphant grin. “That’s true love!”
“And they’re still together 52 years later,” I added, casting Lottie a superior smirk.
Lottie rolled her eyes, “Ava, let me know when you’re ready for the ‘Green Card’ version of this fairy tale. It’s a better story.”
I’m linking up with Yeah Write for the final week of the Summer Writer’s Series. Please click on the link and check out the many talented writers. Then come back and vote for your favorites on Thursday.