Last night we had my extended family over for dessert, coffee and conversation. Half-way through the evening I told them I was going to read one of my blog posts to them. My Mother -- The Actress.
The reactions when I started reading it to them were very entertaining (as I knew they would be). They started gasping, talking over each other, "Oh, yeah, how many times did we have to hear THIS story"; laughter and hilarity ensued. This part of the family was under my mother's thumb for a number of years. I've written about my cousin, her sons and her father (my uncle) in other posts. This is the part of my extended family we remain close to and live close to. We've all broken every contact with my parents and sister.
For nearly five years my mother had unfettered access to my cousin, et al. They've heard all the stories I grew up hearing. They've heard them almost as many times as I have because they know the stories word for word as I do. It is fun to hear them repeat stories that I had grown up with and had to continue to endure well into adulthood. When they repeat my mother's tales it enables me to see how my mother has altered and embellished some of her well-worn stories in more recent years.
When I finished reading to them, a couple of them in unison said, "You've got to tell the story of "The Time Paul Newman Saw Your Mother". I started laughing because I had already decided to do that. That is exactly where my mind went after telling you all about my mother's competition with Sophia Loren. People who've been in my mother's sphere for any length of time know that Loren leads to Newman.
It was the early 1970's which means I was around ten years old. I still clearly remember being told by my mother that she and dad were heading off for a romantic weekend on the coast. Sister and I were going to have a babysitter for two days. This would have been a non-event, and I would never have remembered it if not for the story my mother came back with. It was repeated with more than enough regularity to ensure it has been hard-wired into my memory neurons. If I ever get Alzheimer's, I'll likely still remember this story.
Mommy dearest and dad headed off for Salishan Lodge in Newport, OR. It was a brand new upscale resort at a popular beach destination. I believe it was the first upscale resort to come to that area. There are much nicer places there now, but at the time Salishan was swanky and new.
My mom would have been in her early thirties. She was still slim and hadn't lost her southern California sophistication yet. In a few years she gained 40 lbs and starting looking more like a chubby Mexican mamasita, but at this time my mother still had her looks.
My parents were eating a meal in the Salishan restaurant. The restaurant was rather deserted at the time except for a man seated a little way away reading a paper. My mother says she was animatedly talking with my father when she started noticing the man reading the paper was looking her direction. She could see he had startlingly blue eyes. She claims she began to feel a bit disconcerted because this man wouldn't stop staring at her. He had no expression on his face; just a blue gaze.
Finally, she said something to my father. "Honey, that man over there keeps staring at me, and he has the bluest eyes I've ever seen." Reportedly, my father then noticed this and so was able to confirm the man with the blue eyes was staring at my beautiful mother.
As my parents were exiting the restaurant they saw some excited chattering amongst the restaurant workers. One of them turned to my parents and said, "Did you see PAUL NEWMAN? He's here."
This moment has lived on in our lives as "The Time Paul Newman Saw My Mother". I kid you not. That is exactly what my father named this event. My mother positively wiggles with delight when someone says, "Remember 'The Time Paul Newman Saw You'?" We would bring it up as a kind of subtle joke; she thinks we bring it up to fondly remember her youthful and irresistible beauty. Bring up the title to this story and watch her take off!
The punchline of this story is that Paul Newman saw her, she didn't see him. Mother loves the juxtaposition of her not realizing she was in the same room as a movie star...but that the movie star noticed her. Somehow, the fact that she didn't figure out it was Paul Newman is supposed to tell us that she is not someone who needs to pay attention when the rich and famous walk into the room. She is the one with the star quality...and the movie stars pay homage to her.
Part of this story is also how my parents looked like a happy couple. Married for a little over a decade and still having romantic trysts and enjoying each other's company at a meal. Aren't we special? Not a sullen couple silently eating their omelets at the same table. No, she is still captivating to her man as she gesticulates her way through a conversation.
I keep referring to my mother's extensive use of hand and arm movements most every time I am describing her. Anyone who has known her for more than an hour will nod vigorously if one mentions her hand and arm movements as she talks. They are an entity until themselves. They are not meant to emphasize her words...they actually serve to distract from her words. To hypnotize you into not noticing what she is really saying. I am suspicious of the possibility that Newman's attention was grabbed by the constant movement of my mother's "graceful" arms and hands. Oh, yes, don't forget to notice how graceful and lovely her hands are. This is how she showcases one of her assets. She is quite proud of her shapely hands and arms and manicured nails. I am nurturing a belief that Paul Newman was simply a victim of gesticulation manipulation. Having been hypnotized by those beautiful butterflies attached to the end of her arms, I am becoming more sure of what Paul Newman was really looking at. He probably wanted to knock her to the ground and tie her arms behind her back.
Mom still tells this story to anyone she is trying to impress. Now that she is pushing 70 years old it is important to underline the fact that she was a stellar beauty in her day. Who of you can tell stories of when movie stars noticed you? That is hard to compete with. No one ever tries.
Her audience just smiles and oooh's and ahhhh's. We're in the presence of a woman whom the stars take notice. Don't you forget it.