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Remembering Mom

Remembering Mom

I just can’t write about her enough.

My mom has been gone for close to 10 years now and every ounce of love and devotion that woman gave me still resonates inside me. Here are some random thoughts and I hope a few resonate with you.

Mother’s Day Gift
What was always the standby gift when I couldn’t come up with a good idea on my own? A bottle of the women’s fragrance Jean Nate. Don’t ask me what exactly it was except it came in these giant yellow boxes and was advertised as “toilet water.” You’ve got me. (By the way, it’s still sold today.)
 
The Latin Casino
My mom used to go to the original downtown Philly location, but my old man didn’t own a car and frankly didn’t want to spring for a big night out after it moved to Cherry Hill. So one night for my mom’s birthday when I was a senior in high school, my buddy Billy (like a limo driver) drove us over in his beat-up Ford and I took her to see Tom Jones. I have no idea where I came up with the money, but my mom couldn’t believe I had pulled this off because she adored Jones. That night at The Latin we sat a mile away, but I swear Jones winked right at her.
 
Reading
My Mom was a voracious reader and if she saw me leaving the house to catch a trolley she would yell out, “Where’s your book? What are you going to do—stare out the window?!”
 
Jeopardy!
Because of all my mom’s reading and despite the fact she only got as far as high school, she was the smartest person I knew and would know every answer during a Jeopardy! episode. She was just amazing at it and I’m telling you she would give this James Holzhauer a run for his money.
 
Diversity
It’s a big word today. I grew up in an all-white, predominantly Catholic neighborhood. But the first two years of my life I lived in a project called Bartram Village that was racially diverse and our next-door neighbor was an African-American woman named Phyllis who my mom became very close to. They were so tight that when we moved my mom continued the friendship for the rest of her life. On our new block was a rowhome dentist, a Jewish man named Dr. White, whose wife Shirley became best friends with my mom.
 
Both of these friendships were highly unusual back in the day and I can’t help but think shaped me to be a better person.
 
Generation Gap
When I’m hosting one of my shifts at 94WIP, occasionally I’ll get a caller who immediately starts whining and complaining about “these players today.” That caller rarely recovers for me. I’ll give you two guesses for a free panzarotti where I learned to be bugged by this. My mom.
 
My neighborhood was full of parents who used a variation of that stupid nugget, “These kids today.” My mom had a habit of finishing their comment for them, but not in a way they expected. “Kids today are no different than you and I were when we were kids.” It’s so true. My mom heard that “kids today” line when she was a kid (a “hellraiser,” she used to refer to herself with glee) and now was hearing parents her own age using it. And boy did that bug her.
 
The Jersey Shore
My mom adored the beach. When she was 15 she used to take a bus to Atlantic City to dance to the big bands on the Steel Pier. She would dance all night long until her feet bled. What I wouldn’t do to be able to YouTube those moments, to see my mom when she was 15.
 
When the kids came along she made the switch to Wildwood. Her swinging nightclub nights came to an end, but boy we were on that beach by 9 a.m. and wouldn’t leave until 5:30 p.m. Truth be told, she would have laid on her blanket until the sun went down if we weren’t bugging her to take us on the rides, which she loved as well.
 
When my comedy career took off I was lucky enough to be able to afford to buy a home in Sea Isle City. It was an old rancher a couple of blocks from the beach— not some beachfront mansion—but hey, it was awesome. My mother, although she hid it from me very well, was still getting over the disappointment of me dropping out of college, and just couldn’t believe that someone in her family, her own son, owned a house “down the Shore.” She might have even thought I had stolen it somehow for a moment. It took her a couple of visits to truly get comfortable in it. “Get your feet off the couch!” she’d yell at me, like I was borrowing the house off some rich person. “Mom! It’s my couch,” I would yell back.
 
Mom the Babysitter
My wife and I are not stay-at-home types. We love going out. When our daughters were born, that wasn’t easy to pull off and every parent reading this can identify with that. My mom the babysitter to the rescue! She couldn’t get enough of Keely and Ava. She would actually call my wife Debbie and say, “Do you guys feel like going out tonight?” Not only would she take them to movies and such, she would also use these hours to teach them stuff. Like how to tie their shoes or identify countries on a globe. And her babysitting rates were fantastic. Like, free.
 
Liz Taylor
My mom believed that Elizabeth Taylor was the most beautiful woman who ever lived. She would say this every time she appeared on the tube. One year I bought her this outrageously gaudy pink bathrobe for Mother’s Day. When she opened it I could tell she didn’t know what to make of it. I don’t think she liked it. But when I made her try it on, I said to her, “Mom, you look like Liz Taylor!” And she wore it until the day she died.
 
And you know what? To me, she was more beautiful than Elizabeth Taylor.

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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 16, Issue 2 (May 2019).

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Author: Big Daddy Graham

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