IRENE DUNNE SHINES AS A TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY MOTHER OF A NORWEGIAN IMMIGRANT FAMILY. RESEMBLING A REAL "OCTO-MOM," SHE JUGGLES AND SOLVES ALL THE PROBLEMS IN HER SAN FRANCISCO HOUSEHOLD AS WELL AS THOSE OF HER ODD-BALL RELATIVES.
In the opposite direction was the 1987 three-star movie, "THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN." It was a dark comedy that featured a dysfunctional family that was highlighted by a hen-pecked son's (Danny DeVito), edgy relationship with his over bearing mother, (Anne Ramsey). When the camel can't handle the last straw, the son decides to have his mother murdered.NOW THERE'S A NURTURING FACE IF I EVER SAW ONE. TO PREPARE FOR HER ROLE AS MOMMA, THE HIGHLY ACCLAIMED ANNE RAMSEY GARGLED WITH RUSTY RAZOR BLADES.
Although far from ideal, my childhood was somewhere in between the two films...however, let me make this perfectly clear, my mother's demeanor was infinitely closer to Irene Dunne. Still she had her momentary flaws like the time I got lost at Jones Beach. Many of you may recall that "MAD MAGAZINE" did an expose on that event in 1959.
Like any normal four year old, something along the shoreline caught my eye. I drifted away from the pack and got lost in the crowd. Several minutes later I turned inland and couldn't find our home-base. In the mean time, panic set-in when mom realized I was gone.
My mother knew calling dad, (he worked a 60-hour week) with the news that I vanished was out of the question. Despite being frantic, she organized a search-party posse. Along with a couple of my aunts, she enlisted other women...and the Stevie scavenger hunt was on.
I wasn't there to witness just how freaked-out this made my mom but the MAD MAGAZINE article portrayed their woman as saying, "Where's my baby...oh god help me...I'll kill anyone who harms a single hair on his head."
A block away, I soothed my disorientation by befriending a bunch of kids. In no time, I was having a grand ol' time, giggling, digging tunnels and eating CHEEZ-DOODLES. Unfortunately, my idyllic five minutes in limbo was interrupted by one of my aunts. Like landing a trophy marlin, she grabbed me hard by the wrist and lifted me in the air. Luckily she didn't pull my arm out of the socket.
Clutched against her ample bosom, I strained to divert my eyes from the cable-wire-like hairs protruding from the mole on her chin. I was still squirming to get free when she wailed, "You're gonna get it." Auntie brusquely wove a path between the beach blankets. When I saw my mother, she was nearly in tears as she ranted to bewildered strangers, "Help me find my baby."
When mom saw me she hugged me. Then she saw the orange cheez-doodle dust on my mouth and hands, and screeched, "What were you having...a party?" Now I'm not saying that my mom invented PMS...however, its widely accepted that she was one of the early research pioneers. So, just as some guy said, "Lady, DON'T hit him..." Wham! I got a stinging open hand across the face...ah yes, home-spun corporal punishment...remember, in those days, smacking your kid in public was highly acceptable.
That same man...my only hope for salvation...became mute and powerless when he saw the passion of mom's infuriated eyes. With his bravado shrunken, all hope of intervention on my behalf disappeared. I guess, he decided against restraining her when he realized that she was a Leo. Instead, to the appreciative nods of the other moms, my mom stepped-up the carnage. Whatever dangers and/or predators I might have been exposed to in the wild, my mom was worse. She delivered her own ten-fold brand of discipline and clobbered me. In a seemingly never-ending, near-lethal dosage of slaps, screams and threats, it was branded into my psyche, to NEVER wander off again. In my adolescence, the profound nature of that lesson surely stunted my puberty by six months.
Another of mom's peccadilloes became clear to me when I got older. She had a gimmick that kept my sister and I from trying to stay (unnecessarily) home from school. In fact, it worked so well, I frequently went to school when marginally sick, to avoid the torture of cleaning my room, closets, and the basement. Even wintertime holidays like, Lincoln's birthday were unappreciated because the work at home was more tedious than anything at school.
Mom might have had other less than golden moments but luckily there weren't many. That's why I prefer to dwell on her overwhelming goodness.
Two days ago, on August 22nd we celebrated mom's 79th birthday. We took her out to the "OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE" and had a little soiree in her honor. (See last year's blog...that party was at "LENNY'S CLAM BAR.")
CAT-FIGHTS? YOU CAN SEE THOSE ANYWHERE. BUT THE DYKER HEIGHTS (BROOKLYN) OUTBACK OFFERS UNIQUE AMBIANCE...FIVE MINUTES AFTER THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN, TWO WAITRESSES HAD A KNIFE FIGHT.
During her party mom was a true lady as we roasted her with petty jokes. She was also gracious when we filled the air with compliments. Certainly when you considered how well-adjusted and successful her children turned-out...assuming I'm staying current with my meds, she deserves a lot of credit for her unconditional love, devotion, leadership qualities and patience.
So please join me in wishing her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY and many more.
Hopefully you'll rent, "THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN." I guarantee, you'll come away from the experience with a deeper appreciation of your mom.
Also, "I REMEMBER MAMA," is frequently aired on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). If you're like me, you'll love the characters and the story, but more importantly you'll reflect on the dedication and sacrifice your mom made to improve the quality of your life. That's why I get misty every time I hear the closing line of the movie, "Most of all, I remember mama."