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  1. With Love and Gratitude

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    By Samantha DeRose

    Junior High is such a great time to be a kid…said no social outcast ever.

    You’ve read it before.  Need I remind you of the bloomer gym suit?  Didn’t think so.  I was an outcast. How did you survive those graceless years, you ask?  Let me tell you.

    I didn’t have many friends, but those that I did have, in addition to a whacky but loving family, were my life line… much like today. 

    At an age when most tweenaged girls were fixated on boys, makeup, and cheerleading, I was still wildly entertained by Little House on the Prairie and Mork & Mindy, by making weird noises / faces, pretending to speak foreign languages fluently, pretending to be an opera singer, skipping / galloping on a whim.  Let’s face it.  These were the types of activities that weren’t getting me voted most popular in junior high (or high school or college).

    It was around this time, in junior high, that I became besties with my elementary school friend, Marygrace.  We had known one another since first grade.  She was “the new girl” (having transferred from Catholic school to School 9).  I was “the sick girl” (having been hospitalized for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever… yes… a disease that dogs get).

    Marygrace’s home was a sanctuary for me.  Her family, like mine, was loving and outrageously (insert whacky adjective here) funny, silly, goofy. One of my first memories of Marygrace’s mom, Lois, is walking into their house and hearing her sing (operatically) “Ooooooh, Sweet Mystery of Life at Last I Found Yooooooouuuuuuuu!”  Marygrace’s horrified face was shining a brilliant red as I fell to the floor in peals of laughter.  Lois had become my goddess at that very moment!

    Lois would tell me how she LOVED to sing and then somberly belt out, “AAAAAAAVEEEEEEEE MAAAAAARIIIIIIIIIIAAAA!” but she couldn’t look at me while she sang or she’d start to laugh… As a matter of fact, I don’t recall her ever getting past the first two words.  I guess that was the point.  To laugh.  Truth is, though, she had a great voice.

    She would entertain me for hours with her fascinating stories … There was the one about the time that she had convinced a bunch of uppity folks at a cocktail party that she was, in fact, a former Rockette.  She was not. I’m sure the uppities still believe that they met a bona fide former Rockette that night.  There was the story of the party where, after a glass or two of red wine, she got up on a table and danced… like a Rockette.  **

    I wanted to be JUST like Lois when I grew up.

    It didn’t take us long before our mission together, Lois and mine, was to embarrass Marygrace at every given opportunity.

    Lois would take us shopping and she and I would pretend to speak a foreign language.  I’ll never forget the day shopping at Harmon, the two of us sauntering around the store speaking our native tongue, while Marygrace hid in the shampoo aisle.  And we didn’t stop at the checkout line.  Lois, with a stick of Mitchum deodorant in her hand, looked at it, looked at me, looked at Marygrace, looked at the cashier, and said, “Meeetchuuuuum! Alad amdich grucfchtsh locqui blenschtrov!” and we fell to the floor laughing at the private joke that we both shared about Mitchum deodorant.

    Then there was the mantra.  Marygrace’s little sister (she’ll always be the little sister), Emily, made a new foreign friend.  The friend had come to dinner one night and Lois made a chocolate cake, much to the new friend’s liking.  The next time Emily’s friend was invited to their house, the young foreigner, fondly remembering the American delicacy – chocolate cake - said to Em, in broken English, “Emileee… Dell you muddah do beg dat kehk. Dell you muddah do beg dat choc-led kehk.”  Well.  That’s all Lois needed to overhear.  From then Lois would randomly begin chanting and dancing (in a jerky, non-Rockette fashion), “Tell-your-mother-to-bake-that-cake.  Tell-your-mother-to-bake-that choc-late-cake.”  Every time she did it, Emily would cry, “Stop making fun of my FRIEEEENNNDDD!” and I’d double over crying with laughter.

    There was the time that Lois picked us up from high school and saw an old lady lugging a bundle of groceries down the middle of Colfax Ave.  She stopped the car, warned us NEVER to do this, and then motioned for the old lady to get in.  The ancient woman got into the car and looked at Lois with cataract-weepy eyes and a bright red lipstick schmeared smile across her face.  Lois asked her where she lived and the woman replied, “Heh?”  Lois: “WHERE DO YOU LIVE, HONEY?”  Decrepit woman: “HEH???”  Then Lois glanced at us in the rearview and said, “She can’t hear a word I’m saying. I gotta get her home before she has a heart attack in my car.”  I don’t know how we got this picture of frailty home or if the place where we dropped her off was in fact her home, but Lois did the right thing and that’s all that matters.

    Oh.  And remember when aerobics was the exercise of du jour?  None of this Zumba crap.  I walked into Marygrace’s house one afternoon,  heard music coming from the TV room, and Lois breathlessly chanting, “Fire Hydrant!  Fire Hydrant! Fire Hydrant!”  I asked Mayr what was up and she said, “Don’t ask.  My mother’s trying to do aerobics.”  Naturally, I raced to the TV room only to find Lois on all fours, in front of the TV, trying to mirror the instructor who looked like she was taking a leak on an invisible fire hydrant.  That might have been the time I fell on the floor and laughed so hard I farted.

    Of course, Lois couldn’t let her poor husband Jim, a.k.a. Pa (as in Pa Ingalls...we were all fans), off the hook with her hijinks.  Lois thought it would be hilarious to take this “head” – I think it was one of those life-sized Barbie heads that you could put make up on or a mannequin head …whatever – while Pa was sleeping, rest it on her pillow, and place additional pillows under the covers fashioning a body.  She then told the girls to tell Pa that Ma wasn’t feeling well.  When he shook “his wife” the head rolled onto the floor giving Pa the fright of his life.  I think Lois may have had to make a few extra chocolate cakes to smooth that one over.  Actually, I’m not really sure whose idea it was the girls’ or Lois’s…but the point is, Lois went along with it…gladly.**

    While I was away at college, I could always count on at least a letter a week in my mailbox from Lois with countless stories of the hilarity that was ensuing on the home front (and always a few bucks for beer...I mean book money).  One time I received a card that simply read … “Took this picture at a fair…reminded me of you and Marygrace. Love, Ma” Enclosed... a picture of cattle (and some cash).  

    On visits home from college, I’d enjoy double Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters… sent back to school with bursting care-packages from both my mom and Lois.  There is a reason for the Freshman 15.  Two doting moms.

    I could fill volumes with the lifetime of parties, family reunions, holidays, weddings, births of our children...but I'll end with this:

    Lois, you took a girl who felt as if she had no place in this world and made her feel as if she was special.  Thank you for linking arms with me through the awkward years and for making those moments priceless instead of painful.  You gave me the courage to be silly, to sing, to dance, to make weird faces … to just be me… just by being you.

    ... and P.S. Sing Ave Maria for Chip, would ya?  It’s ok if you laugh.

     I love you.

    **Correction.... Lois convinced nuns at the hospital where she worked that she was a former Rockette... the rumor spread, a priest who knew a Rockette found out and starting asking too many questions... so Lois had to confess! 

    Correction #2 .... It was a Cher head and it WAS Lois's idea on April Fool's Day to scare Pa!

    Ah, Lois... What an Amazing mark you left on this world! We were so luck to have you.

  2. 3 comments:

    1. What a beautiful tribute! We all need multiple mothers.

    2. She So Funny said...

      Correction.... Lois convinced nuns at the hospital where she worked that she was a former Rockette... the rumor spread, a priest who knew a Rockette found out and starting asking too many questions... so Lois had to confess!

      Correction #2 .... It was a Cher head and it WAS Lois's idea on April Fool's Day to scare Pa!

      Ah, Lois... What an Amazing mark you left on this world! We were so luck to have you.

    3. Anonymous said...

      That sounds like the most fun ever! It is great growing up with silly people around.

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