With the glass of chipped ice delivered to her daughter, Elizabeth crosses the room and turns on the old box radio. Between the hard, discordant sounds of static, she can barely make out the broadcaster’s words: “British troops,” and something about “DiMaggio.” Hunched over the old radio, Elizabeth repeats the news to Veronica: “They’re saying that U.S., British, and French troops have moved into Berlin.”
Despite the fact that Elizabeth only completed the third grade, her passion for current events has remained a lifelong interest. Veronica, though only able to complete the eighth grade herself, shares her mother’s love of world news. An eighth-grade dropout, she still reads Encyclopedia Britannica daily as if every word was a required morsel of food. But today, miserably heavy with child, she doesn’t care.
Trying to find something—anything—to break the monotony, Elizabeth tries to make small talk about her favorite Yankee. “I heard that Joe DiMaggio is returning home from the Army. He’s sure lookin’ skinny, and a heck of a lot older. Darned army life, I guess.” Pausing to muse on where to take the gossip next, she continues, “I think he’s about thirty or thirty-one now. That pretty blond, Dorothy Arnold, divorced him, you know that? What a shame, having that little boy and all. I wonder if he still has it in him to take us to another World Series?” Veronica glares at her mother as if to say, “How dare you think about anything but me and my plight.” It’s obvious—as it always has been and always will be—that my mother expects nothing short of total devotion, attention, and servitude from her mother. And for inexplicable reasons, Elizabeth will comply with her daughter’s demands for the remainder of her life—an arrangement that will leave her entirely dependent on her two children for social and financial support. Despite the fantasy that her widow’s pension covers their needs, it’s actually the other way around: Elizabeth’s two children, my Uncle Thomas and Veronica, have taken care of her since their father died, when they were only fourteen and ten years old. No matter how hard Veronica works, Elizabeth still thinks everyone would perish without the godsend of her pension check. Under those circumstances, how could Elizabeth ever leave us? At least, that’s one of the reasons she tells herself and all of us over and over for years to come. In the end, Elizabeth will surrender her home in New York, her treasured Catholic church, her friends—even “her” Yankees—and resign herself to living in California.
Eventually, this arrangement will cost Elizabeth her relationship with my Uncle Thomas, who will sever all contact with her to punish her for abandoning him in favor of my mother. If only he could realize how tightly my mother’s self-pity can bind those who long to love her and be loved by her, maybe he could understand my grandmother’s “choice.”
After a few more minutes of trying to hear through the static of the old radio, Elizabeth turns it off. The sullen scowl on Veronica’s face shows that her effort at small talk is not appreciated. She goes outside for another breath of air as her next door neighbor, Lucy, delivers some produce. (P.g. 7-8) To be continued…….
Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe at www.Amazon.com