March 16, 1992 I turned 13. I also got the chicken pox. In all of my newly-crowned teenage wisdom, I picked the first spot that appeared on my face, despite my mother’s warning, “leave it alone or you will make it so much worse.” The pimple turned out to be the first of about 5,000 pox that made the next two weeks among the most miserable of my entire life.
I laid on the couch day after day certain that death was impending. The fever and itching and just plain discomfort made each breath resemble my last. Perhaps it was my flair for the dramatic, or the fact that she had three other plague-stricken children to take care of, but my mother didn’t seem to think that my situation was quite as dire. Luckily for me, my then 80-something-year-old Nani disagreed and tended to my every need.
As my three brothers healed and went back to school, my mom went back to work while I lay convalescing for the second week with Nani at my side. She brought me Seventeen Magazines, made me Lipton Cup of Soup and watched endless hours of Press Your Luck Reruns. She was my best friend not just when I was sick, but always. There was nothing that she wouldn’t do for me and I simply loved to be with her.
When Press Your Luck turned to the less entertaining Card Sharks, I would flip the channel to VH1 which played an endless loop of Vanessa Williams’, “Save the Best for Last” and TLC’s, “Ain’t too Proud to Beg.” I don’t know if it was the colorful overalls or perhaps the condoms pinned everywhere, but she just, couldn’t, “understand those dirty girls.” Why would they put on such a “performance?” And they would look so much nicer in a, “pretty dress.” For a solid week every time it came on, she laughed and said, “There they are again. Those crazy girls with those dirty pants on.”
Last Friday night while going to see Push the Limit, a friend’s band, perform at Jungle Boogie at the STL Zoo, I spotted one of those crazy girls. T-Boz was there, in the flesh and I was suddenly 13 and starstruck. I can’t lie, I totally followed her, from afar, certain that it was her, but still too shy to approach. With Handsome #3 in his stroller, I pushed toward the Fragile Forest where she stood admiring the animals. Suddenly, Maurmi strikes up a casual conversation with her as if she is a volunteer zookeeper for the day.
She was so kind, so friendly and so far from anything ostentatious. I made eye contact and blurted out with tears in my eyes,
“OMG?!?!? Are you who I think you are? You are so beautiful. I just saw you in concert a few months ago. You are just. I am having a moment. Your music. I just. OMG, can I get a picture with you?”
She graciously said, “yes,” ignoring my verbal diarrhea. We exchanged pleasantries and she was on her way. I spent the rest of the evening reveling in the excitement and the fact that my celebrity friend list is no longer just Richard Simmons!
I attended a work event on Saturday morning and made it home just in time to head to Mass before Handsome #1’s evening soccer game. As I sat in church, I saw the date on the bulletin, August 8. It was the eight-year anniversary of my Nani’s death. My heart broke a little, as it does every time I think of her, but I found strength in my faith, knowing that she is with God and her family in heaven.
I smiled to myself as I prepared for communion and the organist began to play, “Here I am Lord.” It was the song played at her funeral and the one that always happens to start the moment that I need it most. I felt her hands on mine and rubbed my thumb over her knuckles just as I had thousands of times in our 28 years together.
As a tear ran down my cheek, I began to laugh. I could see her in the blue recliner eating a bowl of ice cream and giving her disapproving dissertation about T-Boz and her clan. I realized that she had been with me the night before, that she approved of the nice young woman that T-Boz has turned in to and that she still loves me the most. And if she had been there, she would have dispensed the following advice.……
Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you’re moving too fast