My mom’s best friend was a woman by the name of Jean Rymas. It was through Jean that my mother met my dad. She and Jean would regularly go to dances at the Saint Agnes dance hall and it was over the holidays in 1942 that my mother and father first danced to the Kay Kaiser band. My dad knew his way around the dance floor and his charm and his dance moves swept her off her feet. When I asked my mom why she was attracted to my dad, she told me that initially it was because he looked like Tyrone Power – you can judge for yourself.
Their courtship lasted a few years mostly due to the fact of my dad’s military service. But finally on May 27, 1945 they were married at Immaculate Conception Church in Brighton Park on the South Side of Chicago. At that time my father and his brother owned a tavern, and that kind of business can be very hard on a new marriage. It requires a lot of hours trying to please drunken people in order to get return business. The times were very different then. No on cared if you drank yourself silly and then got into a car and drove home. There were no DUI’s no blood alcohol level tests. Televisions were not a common household items. Most people got news through radios. And because communication was so primitive, taverns and churches became the hubs of neighborhoods where people frequently gathered to feel part of a community. Taverns opened early and stayed open late. There were no holidays or sick days. A tavern was open every day, year-round, rain or shine. And that lifestyle is very difficult for a new family starting out.
They stayed in the tavern business until both my brother and I were born. My brother was born in 1947 and I followed in 1951. I almost didn’t make it into this world, though. Being in the tavern business both my uncle and my dad had guns in their apartments above the tavern to protect against violent customers or attempted robberies. One day when my mother was about six months pregnant with me my brother, who was almost four years old at the time, found the gun and thought it was a toy. He aimed it at my mother and said bang, bang but his fingers were to weak to actually pull the
trigger. My mom got the gun away from him, told my my dad and that was the driving force to get rid of the gun and get out of the tavern business. The night before I was born my mom was having a drink and a cigarette at the bar (remember, things were very different then), and all of a sudden got a taste for a fudgesicle. She told me she ate it and immediately went into labor. As I mentioned in my previous blog, my mom lived a very sheltered life. She once told me that when she was pregnant with my brother she thought he would be born through her belly button. By the time I came around she knew differently. She said she never had pain in child birth – she was not very stoic when she was in pain, and so she told me she probably would not have considered having a second child if the first birth was too painful. I’m glad she decided to give it a go one more time. And after all that on May 22, 1951 little Janice Marie arrived. My parents then bought a three-flat in Brighton Park and my dad opened a small neighborhood candy store. My mom’s mom lived on the first floor and we lived on the second floor. We would stay in that same building until I graduated from college my parents retired and moved to Florida in the early 1980″s.
Through the years I began to realize that mothers and daughters have interesting and complex relationships. In many ways I was exactly like my mom and in many ways I was the polar opposite. My life with my mom was loving, fiery and complicated and as I continue to recount these memories I am sure you will see that regardless of the ups and downs I would not have traded it for anything.