“Dear…dear….What is your first name?”
Sailing down in the riverboat, African Queen, Rose Sayer was desperate to know. For quite to her surprise, Rose (played by Kate Hepburn) had fallen in love with the “gin-swilling riverboat captain” Mr. Allnut (played by Humphrey Bogart) before knowing his first name. It was a novel place for the straight-laced, old-maid, African missionary Rose to find herself in.
Released right after Mom graduated high school, The African Queen was filmed on location in the Congo. Never a big movie fan, but always a sucker for a good romance, Mom loved this movie. We watched it together on our old black and white television set in the early sixties, when I was 7 or 8. And last Monday, I watched it a second time in color — when my husband and I went on a double date with Bryan and Amy — in the comfort of our own living room.
Double dates were popular back when my parents were first dating. Whether my parents first date was a double date I don’t know. But what I do know is that my parent’s first date was a blind date and that the lady responsible for setting it up was my mother’s friend Rosie. Until last week, I didn’t know Rosie’s last name.
Dear…dear…What is your last name?
I was desperate to know. You see, I was finally sitting down to the put-off business of acknowledging formal expressions of condolence on Daddy’s passing, while his death could still be counted in weeks rather than months. And Rosie had taken the time to send a flower to the funeral home in memory of Daddy.
Given Rosie’s importance to my own life, it’s ironic that I’ve only two memories of Rosie. The first was made when I was 5 or 6. Rosie found me in typical form, crouched down in the dirt, playing in front of our house. Rosie caught me lost in a world of make-believe as I caught her walking up our drive-way.
With a child’s bold curiosity, I asked Rosie who she was and how she had come since she had not arrived by car. She told me her name was Rosie. Then she told me she was my mother’s good friend. And though this was BIG news — for I didn’t know my mother had any good friends — this news paled when Rosie told me she had flown rather than drove. It strikes me that if Rosie had driven a car that day, I wouldn’t have remembered meeting her. But because she had flown like a bird, I remembered her forever.
The second time I met Rosie was at my mother’s funeral. It was then that Rosie told me of her part in getting my parents together. I will be forever grateful that Rosie shared her memory, for by doing so, Rosie offered me that rare glimpse into my parents past, a more carefree time before the onset of children and mortgages.
After I finished Rosie’s note, my Aunt Jane mentioned that Rosie had also sent a nice card to Mom’s funeral. Jane recalls Rosie writing that Mother had been her best friend. I learned from my Aunt Jo that Rosie, Mom and Aunt Jo knew each other from the early fifties, when the three worked together at S.H. Kress & Co. So not only did Aunt Jo help me find Rosie’s last name, I found out that Mom and Dad met at Aunt Jo’s house and that Daddy was responsible for introducing Rosie to her husband, who died this past January.
It amazes me how people come in and out of our lives, especially when the connections are brief but carry such everlasting impact. I don’t imagine Mom would have been an ‘old-maid’ without Rosie’s help. But I sure wouldn’t have been a maid without her.
It’s great that you were able to re-find Rosie. And how especially nice that you were able to do so in a very human way – I’m presuming no Facebook or Yahoo people seaches were involved here. Of course in the end the “how” isn’t as important as the connection.
It’s amazing how much remains secret in our parents lives, and how little we often know of their lives “before us”. How wonderful that you pieced together so much with so little!
Very nice tribute to an important person in your mother’s life.
Thank you. It felt good to write this morning when I couldn’t sleep. Writing is the best sleeping tonic I know as it always, always lightens my soul.
Happy cruising in Alaska. Can’t wait to hear all about it.
How human the search was I’ll let you decide. I started with Jane, who let me to Jo, who was having a senior moment of forgetfulness — when it came to recall Rosie’s last name right then and there — just like I had a few hours ago when I got ready to introduce my husband to a friend in my contemplative prayer class.
Jo and Jane told me that Rosie’s husband had passed earlier this year — so I used the computer to search out Rosie’s last name by typing her first name in the “Search Box” of the obituary section of the Shawnee News-Star. My first ‘hit’? Don Brightwell, survived by wife Rosie… Still talking to Aunt Jo on the phone, I said the last name and Aunt Jo excitedly said…”THAT’s IT!”
So very human in the way of failed memories — so very perfect in the genius of computer search engines. But yes — no Facebook and no Yahoo were involved; and yes — I did first try the good-old fashioned way.
I so much wanted to Daddy to tell me stories the last year of his life. And of course, he was unable to string two words together most days. And with Mother — I always thought we’d have more time.
Now it’s time to call on a few blog friends — the new fashioned way.
My Dad’s favorite movie is “African Queen”. I think when I retire I will ask him if we can watch it together. I love your story about Rosie and learning something new about your parents. We went with Dad to his class reunion in Oregon one year and one of his classmates had written his life story and gave us a copy. I nearly died when I saw my parents name in his life story. Dad and he had been in the Navy together and both stationed in Norman for flight training. He told the story of how he and his wife met and included the story about my Mom & Dad meeting at the same time. It is priceless. His life story was a very good read as well. Lots of history in it.
We were in OKC over Memorial Weekend at our new house and Margaret & Orren came with us. We worked in our flower beds and thought of you. I told them I was going to have you over to visit and inspect my garden hoping for suggestions. It is really hard to come back to work after being in OKC. I am really ready to go there permanently. Won’t be too long now.
The movie date with your father is a great idea! My father always enjoyed watching a movie with one of us kids or his grandchildren. It was something both Kara and Kyle alluded to, in their personal remarks at Daddy’s funeral.
It’s these sorts of tidbits of knowledge about another — like knowing your father’s favorite movie — that turns our ‘knowing about’ someone or something into true knowing, where we know someone else with an everyday familiarity.
As we walked to the Paseo Art’s Festival last Sunday, I thought about meeting you and Frank there last year. So much has happened since then — and it seems every bit of a year.
Yet, most of the time, the days and months do have a way of passing fast. I pray it will seem so for you, as you look forward to a new life in OKC.
Without asking, I know you and Frank enjoyed your visit with Orren and Margaret. Being separated from folks like them are what make moving bittersweet. But I know you already know this.
Call me when you’re ready for a garden consult — we’re in the phone book!