I first met Dane's mom, Alice, at the Readstown Library where she worked part-time after her retirement. She was petite and her hair was cut in a stylish bob. I thought she looked twelve years old and adorable in her jeans.
We chatted about books: her favorites (Sue Grafton), Dane’s favorites (“He reads really strange books”), and my favorites, nonfiction animal or adventure stories.
Later, we went to Dane’s house to eat the dinner we’d helped Alice prepare. After piling our plates with food, we took them into the living room. The TV was off so we could get comfortable and talk.
Dane sat on a big brown chair in the corner, Alice on the couch, and I went for the green glider rocker. The minute my bottom touched the seat, the cushion slid from under me, spilling me onto the floor. I ended butt down, legs crisscrossed, holding my plate up in the air, saying, “Voilà, nothing spilled!” And it hadn’t.
Dane was speechless.
No bones were broken, so I laughed. Alice started laughing too, and for years after she would say, “Remember when Jane fell out of the chair? She didn’t drop a single piece of food.”
A different kind of first impression occurred when Dane met mymom. We met her for a fish fry in tiny St. Martin’s, Wisconsin.
No sooner did we walk in and sit down than my mom was asking, “Who’s this, Janie?!” She was talking louder than her normal volume, which most people would say registers about 90 decibels, in the tiny but bustling restaurant.
“This is Dane, Mom. My boyfriend.”
“No, Mom, Dane.”
“Is he gay?”
“Mom, he’s my boyfriend.”
“Well, he sure wears a lot of jewelry!”
Dane and I laugh every time we reminisce about this meeting. We remember how loud Mom was and how quiet the restaurant became as I answered.
Even now, with Alice gone for three years and my mother for less than a year, I think of the two of them as sweet and sassy.
Once, when we were again eating dinner with Alice at Dane’s house, this time at the kitchen table, Spike the cat jumped up. Alice grabbed the cat and threw him down to the floor. Then she looked guiltily at me, knowing how much I love animals, and said, “It’s okay, they always land on their feet.”
Dane and I howled while sweet Alice worried she’d offended me. Not possible! I laugh every time I picture her round, innocent eyes assuring me that Spike was okay, and of course he was.
One night Dane called me to tell me he’d been in the kitchen when he heard his mom laughing in the living room. Her laughter became louder so Dane went into the living room to find out what was so funny.
“I’m reading about Jane’s bosoms!” Alice said. She was reading a story from my book, about being sized the first time for a bra. Her laughter was contagious.
When we visited my mom, she’d bombard Dane with questions: “What’s your favorite movie? Do you like Harry Belafonte? What do you think of…” and she’d name some Brewers player that Dane, not a baseball fan, had never heard of. She’d question Dane about what books he read and tell him ridiculous jokes. Once when we were eating dinner my mom casually remarked to Dane that my ‘pointers’ were turning into ‘setters.’
When we were ready to leave, she’d look up and say sweetly, “Bye, Vance. You have pretty jewelry.” Sassy!
According to research, when you first meet someone, it takes just seven seconds to form a lasting impression. My mom adored Dane and I adored Alice.
Maybe because of those first impressions, both of our moms remembered us until they passed on.
One of the last conversations Dane had with his mom was on his birthday. In previous years, Alice had always made him his favorite cake for his special day. Dane was feeling blue about her being in the nursing home. When he visited, he asked, “Mom, do you know what today is?”
“It’s my birthday,” Dane gently said.
Alice was surprised.
“Do you know how old I am today?” Dane continued.
“No, Mom, I’m sixty-four.”
“Well, you sure have a lot of gumption for sixty-four.”
My mom’s last words to us, as Dane and I left her apartment for what would become the last time, were, “Bye, honey. Good-bye, Vance. Drive safe.”This Mother’s Day I was grateful to remember these sweet, sassy women, both of whom had a lot of gumption.