Today’s post comes from Clyde in Mankato.
When Harmon Killebrew died two years ago, I mourned a bit for my mother. She was a dedicated and savvy baseball fan. It occurred to me that Harmon’s death took away the last popular cultural link to my mother, who greatly admired his play and demeanor.
Then a few days after that my wife asked me, “Who was the Italian singer your mother was so gaga over?” “Jerry Vale,” I answered. Ah, there was one more pop culture link to my mother.
However, Jerry Vale died last weekend.
Now to describe my mother as gaga over anything seems a large stretch, but in fact she was exactly gaga over Jerry Vale, not dissimilarly to Elvis fans. When I was in junior high I was puzzled and embarrassed by her response to a Jerry Vale song on the radio, which was quite common on KDAL radio in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
My mother’s name was Adeline, but no one ever called her Sweet Adeline, not even my father, who could be quite tender and loving to her, in deep contrast to his normal pattern of behavior. My mother turned into some other person when Jerry Vale sang, a person I never otherwise saw. It was not only his voice, but she freely admitted it was also the handsome face. Today I realize how delightful and just simply human was this sharp contrast in her character.
Ten years ago my son, who loves and collects all forms of music, told me he had discovered the perfect Italian crooner. He wondered if I had ever heard of Jerry Vale. I treasure that moment of the wheel turning all the way around.
My father also had his contrast in character that embarrassed me back then. Looie was usually a coarse, harsh, angry, insensitive man, exactly like the father in my novelized version of my childhood. That same man loved to dance. He danced (meaning the old time dances like waltzes, polkas, and schottisches) with great relish and accomplishment.
A group of people in our neighborhood, Knife River Valley, held monthly dances in an old school house. My father’s favorite was the broom dance, a form of musical chairs while dancing. If you were left without a partner after the music stopped, you had to dance with the broom. My father’s turns with the broom was graceful, in tempo, and unselfconsciously funny. Oh, how embarrassed I was! Luckily I later grew old enough to be left home alone or with my sister.
What unexpected contrasts did your parents have in their character? Or you?