TWO WOMEN

TWO WOMEN

Editor’s Note:  This was first published on April 18, 2017.  Sunday is Mother’s Day, and feeling a little nostalgic, I thought it appropriate to post it again.

I had a birthday last week, and it brought to mind two important women in my life.  The first was my mother.  The second was my mom.

“Huh?” you say.  “I thought you said two, women.”

I was born in a very conservative Midwest.   At that time, a stigma existed about pregnancy without the benefit of marriage.  Judgment and criticism had not evolved much beyond the puritanical beliefs noted in “The Scarlet Letter.”

My mother, Florence, was a self-reliant woman who supported two young children from a previous marriage.  There was no place to hide when she found herself pregnant.

A relative and close friend, Bonnie, approached her regarding her pregnancy.  What could she do to help?  After some conversation, Bonnie had a suggestion.  She said, “I’ve always wanted a girl, and I can’t have more children.  If you have a girl, would you consider letting us adopt her?”

I don’t know how long the two considered this proposal before they agreed.  And, that is how my “mom” came into the picture.

I was raised in a family of four — my mom, dad, and two older brothers.  I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I was.  Despite a decade and more age difference between my brothers and I, we’ve always been incredibly close.  My parents were encouraging and supportive of my efforts.  I never questioned the love that surrounded me.  From the beginning, I knew I was adopted, but never knew the circumstances.  Nor did I have a clue Aunt Flo was actually my birth mother.  She did not want me to know, and that fact remained undisclosed until her death when I was eighteen.

My mother gave me life.  My personality is a lot like hers, as is my independent nature.  In many ways I think, as strong as I am, she was so much stronger.  I’ve often wondered how difficult it would be to see your child and never be able to acknowledge the relationship.

My mom brought me into a fantastic loving family.  She was a great parent and as we grew older became my best friend.   She introduced me to the theater, opera, and writing — things I still love.  Who I am today is due primarily to her.

Many years ago two women set forth a plan for my future.  What they decided has affected every aspect of who I am.  There are no words to adequately express my love for them both.

 

My Cousin Bob

My Cousin Bob

After his parents’ divorce, my mom continued a relationship with Bob’s mother.  Bonnibel believed strongly in maintaining family connections.  I’m sure she loved her brother, Louis, but I’m also sure she had many periods when she did not particularly like him.  Louis’ behavior towards Bob and his mother was at the very least deplorable.  So, thanks Mom, for giving me the opportunity me to know Bob Child.

At the age of ten, I was unaware of our many “family secrets,” and was prone to blurt something out when I should have been quiet.  An occasion in 1953 highlights this tendency.  Bob wrote about it in his tome, “Scraps.”

“Sharon Filitti…remarked, ‘You don’t look at all like your brother.'”  That was quite a surprise to Bob, who was unaware of a brother, an adopted sibling from Louis’ second marriage.

There were two things I enjoyed growing up.  One was acting or performing, the other was writing.  As I entered the business world, while writing was not the primary focus of a job, it always became integral to what I was trying to achieve.  As a result, I’ve written advertising copy, resumes for clients, newsletters, scripts, technical material, and training manuals.

During the last decade of the 20th century,  I worked for a company based in Memphis and had to attend meetings at least once a year in Tennessee.  This presented an excellent opportunity to visit Bob and Fran.  There were a few occasions when my brother Ted would drive down from Chicago, while I’d head North from Tennessee, meeting at Cherry Street in Carbondale.  These visits were punctuated by hearty laughter and visits to wineries and various haunts that Bob and Fran enjoyed.

During this time, Bob was getting his book, “Scraps,” published — an overwhelming task at best.  How he had time, I will never know, but he discovered my interest in writing and offered assistance.  I’d found a mentor.

Seeing the flyer for his book revealed Bob’s humor.  There he was in London, with his book in hand, standing in front of Big Ben.  The words said it all, “Point Reached.  Scraps Is Published!  Big Ben Boomed.”

As much as Bob was anti-internet, I found the web a way to start writing.  In 2009, I started a blog.  The title came from my human resources days.  One of my colleagues was continually saying, “Let me share this with you.”  Sharon Share Alike was born.  It lasted only one year.  My all-consuming job interfered, and then there was another website.  Spelled somewhat differently, but getting much more traffic, was Sharon ShareAlike, a website for “a drag queen, entertainer, and emcee, and the creator of BoobsforQueens…”  Oh my God, if Bob had seen that he would have been rolling on the floor in laughter.

My copy of “Scraps,” comes with an inscription:

For Sharon,

In fond encouragement of your writing habit already underway; ignore my copyright using anything you wish, but spell my name right and send me 20% of the gross.  Bob

I’ll always spell your name right, Bob, but where do I send the 20%?

I miss Bob’s way of telling a story and recounting happenings.  He made life interesting, entertaining, and even joyful.  He recognized people’s shortcomings but didn’t dwell on them.

In remembering him, I’ll especially miss his laughter.  Someone said that laughter is the sound of angels singing.   OK, that’s a bit much.  Bob’s laugh was boisterous and loud lending itself more to the irreverent.  On the other hand, it was infectious and fun.

Miss you, dear cousin.

THE GOLDEN BOY

THE GOLDEN BOY

When he was young, he would tag after his big brother to a vacant field, where the neighborhood boys played softball. A towhead, he always seemed to end up playing outfield. Inevitably a long drive would head to the outer reaches of the park, and he would race after it. That is until he suddenly vanished.

Face it! It wasn’t the best ballpark in the world, and the “outfield” was a composite of high grass and deep holes. The last anyone would see of the young boy as he raced after the fly ball, arms outstretched, was his blond hair literally disappearing from view. It was no accident he played outfield. Yes, it was tough being the younger brother.

Years later, as Ted told this tale of his brother’s softball prowess, he bestowed upon him the moniker, “Golden Boy.” It stuck.

Good things happen to those who wait. As he was about to enter his teens, along came a younger sister and the Golden Boy began to nurture a side to his personality he had never displayed before. Now, he was the oldest and teasing his younger sister was his right of passage. While at the movies watching “The Wizard of Oz, he pestered her, pretending he was a winged monkey ready to fly her away. The theater was filled with a child’s voice yelling, “Stop it Harlley!” He enlisted a pal to pull dollars off our “money growing” elm tree. Do you have any idea how disappointing it was to find out that was not true? I’m still suffering.

Our lives were woven together loosely as many years were spent apart. During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, he was at Cornell, followed by graduate school at Purdue. I was in high school, then college and later working in downtown Chicago.

However, our lives intersected again in 1968. We both moved to California, he was up in Berkeley, and I was down in Palo Alto. While there, we visited often. Sometimes we went sailing in San Francisco Bay, on other occasions we enjoyed the pool at my apartment, and of course, there were visits to the wine country. We relished the freer culture that was northern California. Even after he moved back to Purdue, we managed to meet up for the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena.

We’ve had many adventures over the years – living both near and far apart — but we’ve always remained close. It’s been a long road from childhood to today. There have been wonderful happy times, and as life would have it, there were times of sorrow as well. Through it all, we’ve been each other’s support and may not have physically carried one another, but we did indeed lift one another emotionally.

With our long journey in mind, I’m reminded of Bob Russell’s lyrics.

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRO’

TWO WOMEN

TWO WOMEN

I had a birthday last week and it brought to mind 2 important women in my life.  The first was my mother.  The second was my mom.

“Huh?” you say.  “I thought you said 2 women.”

I was born in a very conservative Midwest.   At that time, a stigma existed with regard to pregnancy without benefit of marriage.  Judgment and criticism had not evolved much beyond the puritanical beliefs noted in “The Scarlet Letter.”

My mother, Florence, was a self-reliant woman who supported 2 young children from a previous marriage.  There was no place to hide, when she found herself pregnant.

A relative and close friend, Bonnie, approached her regarding her pregnancy.  What could she do to help?  After some conversation, Bonnie had a suggestion.  She said, “I’ve always wanted a girl and I can’t have more children.  If you have a girl, would you consider letting us adopt her?”

I don’t know how long the 2 considered this proposal before they agreed.  And, that is how my “mom” came into the picture.

I grew up in a family of 4 — my mom, dad and 2 older brothers.  I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I was.  Despite a large age difference between my brothers and I, we’ve always been incredibly close.  My parents were encouraging and supportive of my efforts.  I never questioned the love that surrounded me.  From the beginning, I knew I was adopted, but never knew the circumstances.  Nor did I have a clue Aunt Flo was actually my birth mother.  She did not want me to know and that fact remained undisclosed until her death when I was 18.

My mother gave me life.  My personality is a lot like hers, as is my independent nature.  In many ways I think, as strong as I am, she was so much stronger.  I’ve often wondered how difficult it would be to see your child and never be able to acknowledge it.

My mom brought me into a fantastic loving family.  She was a great parent and as we grew older became my best friend.   She introduced me to theater, opera, and writing — things I still love.  Who I am today is largely due to her.

Many years ago 2 women set forth a plan for my future.  What they decided has affected every aspect of who I am.  There are no words to adequately express my love for them both.