My parents didn't have a sweep-you-off-your-feet sort of romance. They were both too practical for that. But they loved each other and saw the goodness each possessed. Soon they found themselves planning their wedding, their lives, and their future. About three weeks before the wedding, my dad had some concerns. He worried he might not be able to live up to my mom's expectations. My dad and she spent a few days apart and then talked about their expectations, which weren't major. My mom asked him to be baptized Greek Orthodox. No problem. My mom knew Dad wasn't the most romantic person in the world. Fine. Once they realized that they did want the same thing, they had a double wedding with my mom's brother and his wife on June 10, 1951.
After a few years in New York City, they got a call from my mom's sister and her husband, who'd moved to Los Angeles. So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly...I mean, Hollywood. Swimming pools, movie stars, and the beginnings of a family. My mom was pregnant with my sister soon after arriving. Three and a half years after that, I was born (so I could spill the beans on my parents in a national magazine), and then, two years later, my brother.
On the weekends, my dad would pile us all into the Batmobile, a 1950-something black Plymouth convertible with a push-button transmission, which resembled Bruce Wayne's very car, and take us to Griffith Park, in the shade of the Griffith Observatory, for his weekly volleyball game. My mom would wrangle us to fill jugs of water from a spout emerging from a stone wall that was supposedly "spring" water. Hey, in Greece water came out of a spring, why not in Hollywood? At home after the game, my dad would barbecue, Greek-style (no Southern barbecue sauce for us, only oregano, garlic, and lemon), and as the sun set, we kids would watch TV as my parents cleaned up.
I never remember my parents complaining. I never heard either of them say they were tired, or bored, or mad. I remember my dad saying, "God bless America" practically every day of my life. I remember my dad and his brother building an addition to our house one summer while we decamped to Oceanside to be near the beach and away from the dusty construction. I remember my mom sewing our bedspreads, curtains, and clothes and cooking Greek food but also making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in an attempt to assimilate. I remember my parents laughing together.
Not only did my parents laugh, they cracked us up, too. Get this: My mom would do impersonations of all the kids in the neighborhood. You haven't lived until you've heard a Greek immigrant lady say "bitchin'." My dad had his own special talents, as well. On one outing to the zoo, as we came upon the hyena cage, my dad started howling like a wolf and made the hyenas howl back at him. We could not believe that there, in the middle of Los Angeles, my dad was making hyenas talk to him. So, my mom could impersonate kids and my dad could impersonate animals. Go figure. We were like a Disney movie with an accent.
And now I'm here in the car on a Sunday, thinking, "Who knew? My mom not only impersonates teens but can also pretend she has been happy all these years. Because now she is saying maybe she made a mistake?" I remember something else she recently said about relationships. She announced, in her imitable Greek accent: "You know how they say, 'Opposites attract'? Well, later on, opposites attack!" I'm about to find out either that after 56 years of marriage my mom has been the Best Actress Ever or that the "opposition" has been attacking for some time unbeknownst to me. I tell my husband to make a left, not follow the car in front too closely (not that I'm bossy), and ask my mom what exactly she means.
We Hear You!