Renée had invited Lydia and Animal to her house. The Jorgensen’s were stunned speechless by his nickname. Animal told them his real name was Angelo, and if they were more comfortable with that name, it was fine with him if they called him Ange. Bjørn had invited Carol. She was nervous meeting his parents for the very first time. They liked the pretty girl, and put her at ease right away. That pleased Bjørn. Animal, Lydia and Carol listened and practiced the Norwegian words the Jorgensen’s were teaching them. There was a lot of laughter. The evening was off to a great start.
“He’s here! He’s here! He’s here!” Renée squealed as she saw her Tommy’s red T-Bird turn into the driveway. All the lights were on to have the house look as it always did, but the parents, and guests were all standing in a half circle around the kitchen table
Svein snapped a Polaroid. Tommy’s eyes were as big as saucer’s, and his mouth was wide open! The whole event was a complete surprise to Tom, he never suspected a thing. He was in shock as Lydia and Animal, Bjørn and Carol, Mr. and Mrs. Jorgensen, and of course his beautiful Renée began to sing:
“Gratulerer med dagen to you!
Gratulerer med dagen to you!
Gratulerer med dagen! Dear Tommy,
Gratulerer med dagen to you!”
Renée placed a German chocolate cake with cocoanut walnut frosting in front of the young man she loved. With seventeen candles all aflame, everyone insisted that Tommy make a wish then blow them out in the traditional American way of celebrating birthdays. The cake was delicious, and Tom ate two slices that were each enhanced with a mound of vanilla ice cream. He’d never tasted home made German chocolate cake before. He laughed, telling Renée he could live on that cake for the rest of his life.
She said, “Yah, then we would need a wheel barrow to push your belly around. Instead of playing basketball, you would become the basketball.”
Marta and Svein apologized for not having very much in the line of gifts. They gave him a box of three monogrammed handkerchiefs. Lydia and Animal gave him a hand tooled leather wallet. Bjørn and Carol gave a record named At the Hop. Renée gave him a large framed pastel sketch of herself sitting posed on Cocoa, wearing only a pair of jeans, boots, and a cowgirl hat, that she had signed, “Miss Godiva”. Renée’s long light blonde hair covered only her nipples, the picture was very seductive. Tom thanked each of them, and insisted that there wasn’t a thing on this earth that he appreciated as much as the warmth and acceptance that Renée’s family had given him. He apologized that his family was not anywhere near as gracious to their daughter, but he loved her dearly, and hoped that his parents would come around to seeing what a charming girl she truly was.
Lydia sat quietly watching and listening. This humble home, even though it was spotless, was no where near as nice as the servants quarters at her parents house, but she also could feel the warmth, love and mutual respect family members had for each other. It didn’t take long for her to realize that it was the people inside that made a house a home. Renée and Bjørn were constantly teasing, and bantering with each other in a friendly brotherly/sisterly sort of way. That made Tom nervous though, as nothing remotely resembling foolishness was acceptable in the residence that his parents referred to as “the Ranch”.
Tom had given Renée a portable record player for Christmas. Renée brought it into the living room, while the boys pushed back the furniture, and rolled up the rugs. The kids were having a good time learning the steps to all the new dances that Renée had learned from watching American Bandstand on Mrs. Hansen’s television. Svein and Marta were glad that the kids didn’t mind them being there with them, and they even joined them on the floor dancing. Just like Lydia and Animal, they only danced the slow ones. Since Tom always danced with Renée, it wasn’t until he saw her jitterbugging with her brother that he realized how much talent she really had. This truly was the best birthday party he had ever been given. Tom couldn’t thank Renée’s parents enough for the good time. They didn’t think anything of it, and were only too happy to give what they had to him for how much he had done for them, and for Renée.
Lydia was having a very nice time. The music and laughter seemed to pull her out of herself, and soon shades of her old personality were coming through. Even though her boyfriend was dedicated, and her two closest friends were supportive, there was no way that anyone could know the extent of the damage that had been done to her both physically and mentally. She was like a clinging vine on Animal. Not that he minded, he still loved the girl, it was that he knew she did it as much out of fear as she did for love. When they were together, it seemed the only time she wasn’t glued to his side was when she was in the kitchen with his mother. And he loved Lydia’s smile when Mama would greet her with, “Lydia... Bella! Bella donna! Come onna in. We maka some sausa!” Knowing the way Tom’s mother treated Renée, he was grateful for the relationship his girl, and his mother had. Animal’s parents were comfortable financially. Their family home was upper middle class, but with his dad working in cement, he knew he’d never cut the mustard when it came to fitting in with Lydia’s family. As poor as the Jorgensen’s were, Renée didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being accepted by the Ericsen’s. They seemed so shallow. He wondered how Lydia and Tom turned out as normal as they were.
Everyone watched Mr. and Mrs. Jorgensen dance to the Nat “King” Cole recording of When I Fall in Love. Each young person there became very aware that money wasn’t the end all, and be all of everything. What mattered most in life was having someone by your side that would stick by you through thick and thin, no matter what. At the end of the song, Mr. and Mrs. Jorgensen wished Tom a very happy birthday, then excused themselves to their room. The kids were still kids and wasted no time putting At the Hop by Danny and the Juniors on the record player. They all stepped aside as Tommy and Renée took over the floor. Everyone was sure it would be number one on “Billboard” by next week. Even though no one would admit it, the kids were getting tired from all the fast dancing. Bjørn put on a stack of his parents Nat “King” Cole love songs. He walked to their door and listened. Hearing nothing, he turned the lights off. With the living room lit only with the invasive glow from the street light outside, he romantically took Carol into his arms, and asked her to be his steady girl. She tearfully said yes. The three couples shared the dance floor, but each felt they were the only couple in the world. Before long, each found a spot where they could snuggle, and spent some time necking.
Tom and Renée did some very light petting, but when it was discovered that Renée was wearing the cotton log, they went back to dancing cheek to cheek, alone on the dance floor. They were always happy to be together whether they could go all the way, or not.
Animal was glad that Lydia had relaxed enough to not only enjoy the comfort of his arms, but warmed to his kisses, accepted his tongue, and let him touch her gently above the waist. Lydia felt stirring down there again, but she knew there was no way she was ready to go all the way until she worked through more of her problems. She was glad that she still had those feelings for Animal, and remembered what Tom had told her about it being good if the person that you were doing it with loved you. Certain that no one was looking, she for the first time ever, placed her hand on Animal’s crotch.
Carol was new to the game of love. This was her first time smooching, and there was no way Bjørn was going to attempt anything further. He knew that Animal and Lydia were going at it pretty hot and heavy, and could see Tom’s hands all over his sister’s ass as they danced to one love song after another. He was sure Carol was the one he wanted to keep his good girl. He somewhat wished he was with Marsha. But, with parents in the house, no one would be getting any this night anyway- except the parents that is! That actually made him feel good, figuring that his parents were probably being intimate. He and his sister both knew their folks were romantic love birds until Mama got so sick. After seeing the look in their parents eyes as they gazed while dancing, their kids both silently hoped that Mama was all better now.
Behind closed doors, Svein was happy that the kids played the music too loud, and were laughing, dancing, and having a great time. It gave him and Marta more privacy. Although nights of moaning passion were a thing of the past, Marta wanted her Svein to make love to her. He was a good lover, and they moved in bed as smoothly as they did on the dance floor. She knew, they both knew her love making days were numbered, as was their time with each other, and their children. She had no pain as they intimately joined, melting into one another as they gently became one. How she loved her man, how he loved his woman. She could feel the strength of his release. She sighed as her own came in steady waves, leaving her satisfied, but totally exhausted. They cuddled in each others embrace. Marta was soon fast asleep. Svein felt a tear roll down his cheek. He was thankful he, his wife, and their child had immigrated before the invasion of Norway by Germany. He felt lucky to find work in a country where he barely knew the language. He was grateful for the years he had been given with this woman. He felt blessed by the two beautiful children that she bore him. He knew that compared to the other kids in his home tonight, they had very little. Much of the time, the kids chose to be there with him and Marta. There had to be something to that. He knew money had little to do with happiness. Happiness and love were more than abundant in his homestead. He wondered what his future held. How would he make it on his own? He tilted his head, and kissed his sleeping wife’s forehead. But mostly he wondered, why did cancer have to choose her?