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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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.

Sheer Luck

Photo by By D. Sharon Pruitt via Wikimedia CommonsThe handsome face of a former crush stared at me from the pages of a glossy home and garden magazine. The four-page spread featured his impeccably decorated home and equally stunning wife and young children.

I gripped the magazine and reflexively sucked in my stomach as the nail technician buffed the calluses from my foot, oblivious to my shock. It was impossible to breathe and read in unison; devouring the details of his life took precedence.

I had fallen hard for him that summer years ago, and this airbrushed flashback hurt my eyes.

We worked for different companies on the same floor of a downtown office building. I ran into him, literally, rushing to the elevator and narrowly missed dousing him with decaf. The delight in his bright blue eyes grabbed my attention first. Surprised at my unusual fortuitous timing, I apologized and stared. He smiled and introduced himself, his eyes never leaving mine.

I glowed for days.

Over the next several weeks, we flirted and created excuses to run into each other, steaming up the hallways and rumor mills. I felt exhilarated and alive; miraculously blessed with good hair and a shine-free forehead.  When he finally asked me to lunch, I wondered about the delay. I fantasized he was wary of a work romance or coming off a break-up.

After a lunch of juicy burgers and witty conversation, he asked me out for Friday night. I floated to my cubicle with the words, “I have a boyfriend. I have a boyfriend!” ringing in my head.

Five discarded outfits and 18 breath mints later, we walked hand in hand to a restaurant near my apartment, giggling and sharing stories. I was charming and delightful; he was smart and funny and made me feel the same.

After dinner, anticipating our first kiss and wishing for another mint, we sat on a park bench and he pulled me onto his lap. “I really like you and am completely attracted to you,” he sighed, “but I have a girlfriend.”

“Huh?” was all I could manage.

“I thought you should know.”

Do I get off his lap now? I wondered.

“Oh,” I stammered. “Um, thanks for telling me.”

We walked the last few blocks in silence. At my front door, he reached for my hand. “What are you doing now?”

“Going to bed,” I replied.

“Alone?” he queried.

“Goodnight,” I said, my confusion not yet yielding to the anger and hurt churning my insides.

The following Monday, after a puffy eyed, pity-party weekend, the elevator doors opened to reveal my crush, arm in arm with a gorgeous, long-legged beauty.

“Honey, don’t forget to pick up our wedding rings,” she purred as they walked past, the enormous diamond on her finger clouding my vision.

Stunned and embarrassed, I looked away and silently urged the elevator doors to close. Or swallow me up.

“Poor girl,” I thought, discarding the magazine in favor of the latest People. “I’m going with OPI’s Sheer Luck on my toes today.”
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I’m once again linking up with Yeah Write for Week Six of their Summer Writer’s Series