Fig Leafs & Triangles

Fig Leaf Charm

“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.”

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41 thoughts on “Fig Leafs & Triangles

    • Thanks, love! In truth, I have a bit more cynicism in me than I let on in the story. But it’s only been in the last few years that I even imagined the “Green Card” angle/component! It never crossed my mind before then! Thank you for your support!

  1. So many layers here, and like Jennifer I adored the back-and-forth between the sisters and the differences in their personalities. More, more! My husband and I fell in love at first sight and I’m a sucker for first-meeting stories.

    • I always wanted a love at first sight experience! Maybe it’s not too late? (Mike, if you’re reading this, stop!!) I’ve always loved romantic stories too, beginning with my mom and dad’s. Have you written about you and your husband’s first meeting? If so, let me know, I’d love to read it!

    • I hit reply before I finished! Thank you for noticing the layers in the story. I wonder if they’re the same ones I intended?!! My conversation with my sister and Ava was fictitious, but I wanted to play with idea of triangles – my sister, Ava and me & my Mom, Dad and Bob – and the control/passive-aggressiveness of the interaction with my sister. Not sure if all that worked, but it was fun writing it!

      • Considering I’m the sister with the impeccable memory, you scared me for a minute into thinking I completely blocked the conversation from memory. Especially considering if that had occurred Ava would have been like 5, and her knowing the difference between the Atlanitic and Pacific is highly unlikely. I don’t particularly see my version of mom and dads “courtship” as cynical though. I think we have heard so many versions, and even viewed it in Lucy reruns that it’s impossible to know what’s fact any more. I’d say 53 years together is a pretty good indication of what’s what. Nice try though!

    • Thank you! I wasn’t sure where I was on the cheese level, so I appreciate your words. The first draft I wrote bored my husband after the first paragraph so I’m grateful I’ve improved!

  2. Wow! I never knew that’s how Uncle Joe and Auntie Terri met!!! I love the story! I’ll share it with my kids when they are older. I’m a sucker for good family stories! Xo

    • Hi! There are so many more details to the story … I’ll share the full version with you some day soon! And next time you see my mom or dad, ask them – it’s unbelievable! Hope all is well. xo

  3. Great story, great dialogue! You’re sister is a handful, isn’t she 😉 Loved both versions of the story, though…that’s what makes it even more romantic!

    • Thank you! And OMG! I would never in a million years think of you being jealous. Makes me feel better cause jealousy is my second favorite emotion lately (after raging bitchiness). And yes, let’s do a mom swap please! My life is available right … now!

  4. You worked those 500 words! I can’t believe how much story you fit into this post!
    I LOVE the way you told it, with your sister and yourself bouncing the story off of one another. It was an incredibly creative and great read. I can’t wait to read the full version one day! 🙂

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