Despite the fact that I am an actress, I have never been a drama queen. Though some of my friends think I am highly dramatic, I don't enjoy, create or ask for any added drama in my life. And I was raised in a basically calm, easy-going household.
Jimmy on the other hand...
Jimmy was raised in a household in which drama and crisis was a daily event. Virtually everyone in his family has a BIG personality. Sicilian-American New Yorkers for which everything is an event, everything is an issue, every problem is the biggest problem. Poor Jimmy was essentially raised in a Scorsese film. And while Jimmy's immediate family is small, the extended family is HUGE. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second-cousins, third cousins twice removed. There are people who Jimmy's calls his cousins to whom he has no idea how or if he's actually related.
The family dramas are epic. Throughout Jimmy's life there was constantly some branch of the family or another that his people weren't speaking to. Someone would have an argument or someone would feel slighted and "bad blood" would erupt between factions of the family. Then suddenly, after maybe 10 years of not speaking, something would happen that would bring the sides back together (usually a death or crisis) and suddenly the "bad blood" was gone and they would hug and kiss and be the best of friends. Very confusing for a child.
Many of these dramas are very good stories, though some of the most dramatic are unbloggable, because they were actually tragic. Others are just crazy. Like the time Grandma Laura ran into the kitchen in the middle of a family argument and tried to off herself by drinking a bottle of vinegar. Or the time Uncle Bill went to take out the garbage and didn't come home for three days because some friends lured him into a card game. Or the time Aunt Anna stuck her head in the oven, but forgot to turn on the gas.
But to me, the greatest family drama of all, involved Jimmy's own parents. And I must say...it's a doozy.
In 1977, after 20 years of marriage, Jimmy's father, Pop, left Jimmy's mother, Mommy, for another woman. We'll call her "That Woman", because that's what she was always referred to (for a Dramatis Personae of the in-laws click here). A much younger, and much...dare I say...trashier woman. To say this was a family crisis would be to grossly underplay it. It was earth shaking. The entire family went into crisis mode. Much screaming and hysterics from everyone. Pop was "talked to". Mommy was consoled.
Because this kind of thing simply wasn't done in Jimmy's family. If you were bored with your wife, you got a cumare (anyone who watched The Sopranos know that's a mistress). But you'd never actually LEAVE the mother of your children. You'd never break up the family.
One of Jimmy and my favorite movies is "Lovers and Other Strangers". It's basically the story of an Italian-American wedding. There's a great scene in which one of the sons is telling his parents (played by the brilliant Bea Arthur and Richard Castellano) that he is divorcing his wife. When they ask him why he would do such a terrible thing, he tells them he's not happy.
Happy? Who's happy? You see me happy?
You see your father happy?
You see me dancing in the street?
You see your father dancing in the street?
So, you and mom aren't happy?
The parents look at each other for a beat.
POP AND MOM
Richie, don't look for happiness. It will only make you miserable.
And that just about sums up the feeling for most of the family.
But not for Pop. Pop is nothing if not melodramatic. Pop was ahead of his time. He wanted to follow his bliss. If you ask me, he was following a certain body part that wasn't attached to the top of his neck.
Everyone's behavior was highly questionable. Pop decided to rent an apartment AROUND THE CORNER, and move in with That Woman. Rumor has it that Mommy got a big knife and ran around threatening to kill either both of them or herself. Poor Jimmy and his brother Tony were caught in the middle. Pop wanted them to share in his joy, Mommy wanted her boys to shun their scumbag father.
Pop continued to live with That Woman for 20 years. But strangely, never divorced Mommy, or stopped taking care of her financially. Because that would have been...the wrong thing to do.
This is how things stood when I first came into the mix. Jimmy and I would stay with Mommy in the family house. But we were expected to visit Pop and That Woman, even though Mommy was not to be told about it, because it would upset her too much. We'd go out to dinner with Pop, but pretend we'd gone out with "Dave and Beverly". And we'd have to get our details straight in the car on the way home, because Mommy would grill us. "What did Dave have for dinner?" "The lobster ravioli." "Did he like it?" "Yes, he said it was delicious." It was very stressful.
Then, in the mid-1990's, something changed. Suddenly, Pop was around more. When we were in town, he'd show up for family dinners. Sometimes, if you called Mommy, Pop would answer the phone. Tony once caught him sneaking out of the house in the middle of the day. At Jimmy and my wedding in 1995, they danced together and Mommy told me that he'd wanted her to stay with him in his hotel room. She giggled demurely, and declined.
One Christmas, Jimmy and I were in New York for the holidays. Pop showed up for Christmas Eve dinner, which he hadn't done in 20 years. He even sat at the head of the table, which confused everyone considerably. During an intermezzo between the many courses of a Sicilian Christmas Eve meal, Pop gave his two sons "the look" and gestured for them to follow him upstairs. Jimmy and Tony curiously followed Pop into Mommy's bedroom, where they were told to sit on the bed. Pop then went into Mommy's closet, and brought out a shoe box, which he placed between them, and opened dramatically. In it was $10,000 in cash.
"I'm leaving That Woman, and this is for the funeral if she kills me."
"But Pop" they asked "Aren't you about to have a knee operation? Wouldn't it be better to leave That Woman AFTER you've recuperated?"
"Well, your mother says I can stay on the sofa in the den after the operation, and she'll take care of me until I can find a place to live."
So Pop has his knee operation, and instead of going back home with That Woman, he moves into Mommy's den.
A month goes by. Suddenly, we get a mysterious package in the mail. It's an 8" X 10" photograph of Mommy and Poppy on their honeymoon, in a lovely silver frame. Odd. We get a call from Jimmy's Cousin Georgi in San Diego. It seems that she and all her sisters received identical photos. We figure it must be a sign.
Needless to say, he never left. I later found out from Mommy that he'd been moving things into the house for months, one drawer at a time. Suddenly, one drawer in the guest room would be filled with his socks. Then a drawer had his underwear and pajamas. When I asked Mommy how this had happened, she just kind of giggled and said "He just never left."
And we never saw or heard of That Woman ever again.
So there you have it. The best family drama from Jimmy's highly dramatic family.
And Mommy and Poppy? They're living miserably ever after. It seems that there was a reason that they split up in the first place. The sons joke that Mommy has taken this opportunity to get back at him for the 20 years of misery and humiliation he inflicted upon her.
I, though, am greatly relieved that they got back together again before Jude was born. Imagine trying to get the kid to remember what "Dave" had for dinner?
For more highly dramatic stories, please visit Sprite's Keeper for more Spin Cycle: Drama action.