Mom always had the radio on in her kitchen. Normally, she liked country music and we would make fun of the twangs in-between the songs; she didn’t appreciate our humor regarding her favorite country singers. We also listened to the Big Bands from the Forties; Mom could name every leader and the accompanying, featured vocalists. No wonder we gravitated to the old black and white musicals – the costumes even without color were outstanding!
Speaking of costumes, we watched any dry comedy or dramatic movies in which the stars wore smoking jackets and the women wore lovely dresses with jewelry on a weekday, sitting in the library at cocktail hour with a martini in their hands. We had a lot of fun, watching and comparing the manner of dress with some of the older photos that our parents had of themselves before and after the war. There were few of them dressed up, but of the few, my mother and aunts were often wearing gardenia corsages and hats at the dinner table, the accompanying cocktail or wine glasses clearly in view.
We soon learned to appreciate those eras, and Winnie and I were probably the only kids in school who could tell Myrna Loy from Claudette Colbert; or Gene Kelley from Donald O’Connor; we even looked for Edith Head on Oscar nights!
Early school mornings, in the midst of an hourly news cap, we’d be eating our breakfast and hear Mom exclaim,
Uh oh…here we go again. Something sad had been announced; another death. I can remember the names and the mornings of some of her exclamations…
Dag Hammarskjöld was a UN Security Chair that Mom really admired; Patsy Cline, and Jim Reeves, two of her country favorites died within eighteen months of each other; all three died in tragic plane crashes. Illness claimed some of the WWII military heroes; President Eisenhower passed. Charles DeGaulle followed soon after.
Taking a cue from my mother’s sadness, I mistakenly believed we were somehow related to all of these people; that meant that Mom and Daddy would be attending another wake soon. We were too young to attend, but we knew: Mom always kissed the deceased goodbye. Winnie and I would stay awake just to beg her not to kiss us after any dead body; at least not until she’d washed off her all her lipstick. To make sure, we’d keep our heads under the covers so she couldn’t reach us until she’d walked into the bathroom and we heard her giggling with the water running.
After a few years of these exclamations in the kitchen, Winnie and I realized it was just Mom reacting to a sorrowful announcement. We were not related to the newly deceased.
Whew! Another close call averted…