I really should give a proper shout out to my (long-gone) Mom, she’s a big part of why coming here is so magical for me. Sophie Virginia Udinski, later Drake, oldest of three sisters, w/3 brothers, child of two broke-ass Polish-American peasants, born 1923 somewhere in Jersey farm country, Camden I think. She was Papa’s favorite, but he died on her 13th birthday, that’ll ruin your day. Her Mom was a house, and got those six kids to adulthood ok. never knew her, she caught the boat to Jesus the year before i fell out of the sky.
She was the breadwinner in our family; Dad had a terrible heart and couldn’t even do stairs. She was a telephone operator back in the day when it involved plugs and cords and stuff. She knew all the goings on in my little town, they all did: which preacher was boinking which wife, which guy was evening the score with his wife while he was out snakin’, etc. And if somebody made a lotsa-coins call from a payphone, she’d try to get me to hustle the three miles downtown on my bike real fast before her supervisor noticed she had her finger on the switch, and I’d have cash for an afternoon, thanks you sneaky. But that was later.
Apparently my Dad, although sickly, was a domineering sort. I heard many years after the fact that after he died my Mom actually blossomed a bit. She was so alone; my Dad’s family was nice, in their way, but were more meddling than supportive. Her family was four hours away. I think she was actually ok with that. Anyway, she was a tractor. She raised two bitchy little kids, who were way smarter than her and so not afraid to use it against her. She bought a plot of land three miles out of town, and built a new house on it. She made shit happen. And of course that house was spotless. I had no idea, i just thought, like most kids do, that things are just always that way. No, she was the real thing, a true supermom.
Mainly I just wanted to say what a dear she was. Simple soul, innocence of a little six year old country girl, her favorite shows were Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune, and she loved her some Golden Girls. Me, all full of myself from college and adventures in the big world, was privately horrified by that, but I was also happy to park by the TV and enjoy them with her. All my friends who met her adored her, she was really not like other people.
She retired from the telephone company after 27 years, can you imagine doing that shit for that long? she must have started when she was like 25 or something. she got disability because it was driving her fucking crazy to be there, good for her for digging in and insisting on that. fuck. When we moved to Virginia we still needed more money, so she re-invented herself as a yard sale gleaner, going out early every morning and raiding carports and stoops all over town, then on weekends selling at a local sprawling flea market. she learned a lot about what was what, and bought things for 50 cents and sold them for $3, which sure, go ahead and snicker at, but she did that all on her own, and over time she built up a reputation and people were always happy to see her.
I was always so proud of her, called her several times a week when i got to NYC, loved her broadly and without reserve, my big huggy bear. She’s who i got my bowling pin calves from, hers were just as big. s-o-l-i-d woman.
Anyway, i could go further, but I’m probably losing you by now. Just wanted to shout out to that big dear. Maybe one of these days I’ll get my sister to send a scan of a photo.