Rhea never approved of any of the boys her daughter had dated because the boys that she had met were either stupid, dumb, ugly, too tall, too short, too fat, had pimples and/or blackheads, or looked like bums or hoodlums. It seemed to Rhea that Marsha brought these boys home just to annoy her—which, at times she did, because…
As for Marsha, the more her mother disliked a boy the more she liked him, or pretended to, and now, looking at Mitchell, she couldn’t help but think again, Wait till mother sees him! Stifling laughter, You look like you’re in movies! Your parents own their own home and business and even a boat, even if it does have only one mast. Let’s see what mother can find wrong with you, Mitchell. Unable to hold back, she laughed.
June 19, 1955
“He’s here, Mother!”
“What do you want from me? So, let him in.”
Hesitating before pushing the intercom button, “Can’t you at least put some clothes on?”
“And what’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“What’s wrong with what you’re wearing? Mother!”
Wearing an ankle length, leopard-skin patterned nylon robe, Rhea was lying on her side on the sofa with her left elbow and head propped on the cushioned armrest. The zipper to the robe was open about six inches, revealing a slight amount of cleavage. Light from the mid-morning sun, coming from the large window behind, dramatically highlighting her long, black hair, Rhea knew this was a seductive pose, because it was a pose she had used to good effect many times in the past when she’d had “friends” up.
Rhea normally wouldn’t go to this much bother—or, for that matter, any bother—for her daughter’s friends, but this boy seemed to be somewhat different, and although she knew, or thought she knew, that he came from a wealthy family, she, truly, did not hold too much hope for him because Marsha’s boyfriends were always, in her opinion creeps that she brought home just, Rhea was positive, to spite and annoy her.
Actually, Rhea thought that Marsha was very pretty. But she also thought that she was far too naïve and unsophisticated to attract a boy that was good enough for her. Certainly none of the boys that Rhea had met in the past had even come close, physically or financially, to whatever lofty standards she had set for her daughter.
Rhea couldn’t be bothered with Marsha when she was small. But she was no longer small, or for that matter a bother, and she would have liked to find a way to narrow the gap between Marsha and herself—especially since Roger had married, and because Brenda, his wife, seemed to be setting stringent guidelines for his and his mother’s relationship—but yet, for some deeply hidden reason, still going out of her way to widen the breach…
“If you don’t like the way I look, my daughter,” she said sarcastically, “then don’t invite him up!”
For a long moment mother and daughter glared at each other, then, indifferently lifting a book from the coffee table, Rhea pretended to read, as…
Nine stories below, he rang the bell again.
Having no intention of meeting Mitchell downstairs because she wanted to… Because Marsha could not wait to see her mother’s reaction, “Okay, Mother.” Shrugging her shoulders just as indifferently, pressing the intercom button, “Mitchie?”
“Yeah. Hi, honey!”
“Sorry it took so long. Come on up.” Pushing the button, unlocking the security door, she went into the hall to wait for him.
The elevator door opening, Mitchell stepped out.
Her hair, rolled into a thick coil, falling over her left shoulder, Marsha wore white, high-cut shorts over a one-piece bathing suit that accentuated her long, slender, no-longer-“knock-kneed,” darkly-tanned legs.
Wearing white, cotton-wash slacks and a short-sleeved, powder-blue shirt out at the waist and unbuttoned to below his chest…
The total effect on both the wonder of their long lost, newly discovered love, each coming into the arms of the other, “Hi!”
Taking his hand, “Come on.” Leading him into the apartment, “I can’t wait for mother to meet you…”
Her head still propped in the palm of her hand, still “deeply engrossed” in her book, moving her head from her palm, Rhea made a halting motion with her hand, as if to say, “I’m more interested in my book then in meeting this insignificant boy, but if he’ll wait till I’m ready, I’ll honor him with my gaze.”
Instantly reminding him of the actress Hedy Lamarr, Jesus, he thought, she’s beautiful!
“Mother,” knowing this was an act, “Mitchell is here!”
“Okay, Marsha!” Lowering the book slowly, forcing a smile, “No need to…” Lifting her eyes, the look of surprise apparent, unable to stop herself, “My, God!”
Pleased at her reaction, “Mrs. Goldman,” crossing the room, smiling his smile, extending his hand, “I’m glad to meet you.”
Mitchell being the last thing she’d expected to see enter the room at the side of her daughter, “Uh,” sitting up awkwardly, clumsily shaking his hand, “Uh…”
“Mother,” smiling a very broad smile, absolutely tickled at her mother’s reaction to Mitchell, and her unusual, to say the least, loss for words, “this is Mitchell.”
“Ah, yes, Mitchell!” Attempting to regain some semblance of composure, “Marsha has…” glancing darkly at her daughter, “told me so much about you.” Obviously, though, Marsha sure hadn’t told her very much. Holding her hand forward, “Sit down, please.”
Not sure if the woman was simply gesturing to a chair, or if maybe she expected him to kiss her hand on the way there, “No wonder Marsha’s so pretty.” Opting for the first, Mitchell sat down.
“Thank you.” Acknowledging the compliment, trying to soften the look of her frozen smile, searching for something… for anything to say, “You’re Jewish?” Rhea said dumbly, “You don’t look Jewish.”
He’d gone through this with girl’s mothers in the past, and having only two ways to prove that he truly was Jewish, and not knowing Marsha’s mother well enough to “whip it out,” thinking the absurd thought, I could show her my circumcision. Or, smiling, this time opting for the second, taking the wallet from his back pocket, removing a picture, he handed it to her.
Looking at Mitchell wearing a tallis and yarmulke in his bar mitzvah picture, handing the picture back, still looking for something intelligible to say, Rhea said, “Oh.”
Enjoying her mother’s squirming, nonetheless, thinking, Maybe now’s a good time to leave. “Mother, we’ve got to meet Shelly at Askanaz and we’re running late.”
Looking at Marsha, surprised at this, but standing, Mitchell repeated, “Nice meeting you.” Adding, “Sorry we have to run.”
Not even pretending to like them, often to the point of being noticeably rude, Rhea usually rushed Marsha’s boyfriends from the apartment as quickly as possible. Now, though, wishing they’d stay a bit longer, wanting to know more about this young man, “Yes, Mitchell,” forcing her eyes from his face, frowning at her daughter, “maybe you can stay longer next time.”
Oh, yeah! “Maybe you can stay longer next time,” not words she’d thought she would ever hear her mother say in regard to one of her boyfriends. “Yes, Mother!” Marsha said sweetly. “Maybe next time.”
Motioning to a beach bag by the door, “This yours?”
Still attempting to keep a straight face, “Uh-huh.” Marsha nodded.
Lifting the bag, opening the door, looking back, “Bye, Mrs. Goldman.” Mitchell pulled the door shut.
The elevator hadn’t moved, so the door opened the moment Marsha pushed the button. Stepping inside, no sooner had the door closed when, her arms about his neck, “Have I ever told you how much I love centipedes?”
“Actually, no.” Smiling, “Why would anyone ever love a centipede?”
“’Cause,” kissing him, “they’re cute and fuzzy and look like you.”
Walking through the lobby, disappointed when she’d said it, “I didn’t know we were meeting Shelly.” He’d hoped they would be spending the day alone. “You want to walk or drive?”
“Let’s walk… And we’re not meeting Shelly. I just wanted to get out of there.”
Putting his arm about her waist, “Good!”
Putting her arm about his waist, “You don’t like Shelly?”
“Sure I like her, but I love you and was hoping to spend the day alone with you.”
“Me, too, Mitchie. I want to be alone with you, too.” Chuckling, “That’s if you call being on a beach with a million kids alone.”
“You mother’s very pretty. I can see where you get it.”
Frowning, looking at him, “You think she’s sexy, ehh?”
“Yeah. For someone’s mother she is, very!”
“Well, Daddy’s pretty good-looking, too, and I’d much rather think I got most of myself from him.”
Taking a chance, “Seems like you don’t care for your mother too much.”
Looking skyward, “It’s such a nice day, I’d really rather not talk about her… You like hot dogs?”
“Huh?” The question so far out of context he wasn’t sure he’d heard right. “Hot dogs?”
“Yeah!” Laughing, “Do you like hot dogs?”
“Well, yeah, sure I like hot dogs!” Other than lox and bagles, one of his favorite foods had always been Chicago style, kosher style hot dogs. “As a matter of fact… Now you don’t know this about me yet, Marcie, but I am considered to be one of the world’s foremost connoisseurs of hot dogs.”