4th of July at the Condo
My mother’s birthday was on July 4th. She was a true 4th of July birthday baby. Her personality reflected her birthday; she was convinced the fireworks, parades and parties were for her.
When she and my dad moved to their condo in Florida, they became very active in the condo association and the social club. They attended every function and wouldn’t miss one if they could help it. In fact, after my father died, my mother would often tell me I shouldn’t come up to see her if she had a social club function to attend or at least I should leave early so she wouldn’t be late.
The same held true for her birthday. The condo party came first. We could never see her for her actual birthday (none of us wanted to go to the condo party) and would see her either before or after.
This didn’t of course preclude us from getting her gift on time; that was not an option.
At these condo parties, the association would give her a cake and she would have to stand and claim to be 49, even when she was 90. She really enjoyed the parties.
A few years ago, my cousin Rocky aka Carole, was down here visiting her mother who lived across the parking lot from my mother. My aunt, Rocky’s mother, had bought tickets to the 4th of July party for herself, Rocky, Rocky’s husband aka Larry and Rocky’s daughter, Stacey. Rocky had to go or her mother would kill her.
Desperate, Rocky called me and begged me to go to the 4th of July party at the condo so she wouldn’t be the only one under 75 at the party. I hadn’t been to one of these parties in over 20 years, but felt sorry for Rocky. I agreed to go.
My mother was thrilled and called my sister and insisted she and her husband also attend. She told us what wonderful food and drink would be supplied as well as great entertainment.
The die was cast; we were going to the condo 4th of July party.
The day came. My wife and I arrived at my mother’s condo’s clubhouse. We entered. My mother, aunt, and cousins were there. My sister arrived shortly afterward. My mother steered us to “her table” where we were all sitting. Since my mother was in charge of the table arrangements and assigned seating, we had a “very good” table.
The food, hotdogs, potato chips, potato salad, coleslaw and soda were served buffet style. We had brought a sheet cake for my mother’s birthday, and along with the little cake supplied by the condo, served all the guests. Happy birthday was sung; everyone ate, and then came the entertainment.
In the past, the entertainment consisted of singers, comedians, dancers (they once booked a “Chippendale” dance troupe. Some of the women hid their eyes while stuffing a dollar into the waistbands of the dancers) and former Catskill Hotel entertainers or faded TV stars. There is a condo circuit much like the old vaudeville circuit of old who supply the condo’s with acts.
This year the person in charge of entertainment decided to go another way. She booked a Karaoke act. The performer set up a Karaoke machine that played the music while showing the words on a small TV screen. The condo residents were expected to get up and participate. That was the act.
The man set up his equipment and tried to get someone on stage to sing.
He started getting desperate, going around to the tables cajoling people. They stayed mute and seated.
Rocky suddenly stood up and volunteered to go on stage and sing. There was a general sigh of relief from all present. Not for her singing ability, which is less than ideal, but so they themselves wouldn’t be forced up.
As she moved towards the stage she grabbed my hand and insisted I accompany her.
“I won’t be the only one,” she shouted as she dragged me on stage.
What could I do, fight her? And besides, I am my mother’s child and not so much reclusive and shy.
We mounted the stage.
All eyes upon us, we picked out a song and sang it while reading the words off the monitor.
People applauded and laughed. We were actually a hit (by default if not for any other reason). Now the crowd started asking for my mother to join us (I seem to remember hearing chanting: “Jean, Jean, Jean”, but I could be mistaken). My mother being the wallflower she was came on stage.
We decided to sing YMCA and assigned my mother the task of forming the letters with her arms and hands. People started copying her hand and arm movements. They seemed to enjoy it.
We sang one other song and got off the stage.
The ice was broken. Volunteers appeared.
One person gamely tried to sing along with the lyrics on the screen but couldn’t read them fast enough and sing at the same time. One sang a few bars and then forgot the rest of the song. One made it through the whole way and was pretty good. Soon the volunteering stopped.
The Karaoke man became desperate again. He was booked for 4 hours and only 45 minutes had passed.
Once more into the breach, Rocky strode to the stage with me in tow.
We sang some more songs (not too well I might add) and the audience seemed to appreciate it. I left the stage, I had had enough and my wife and I were leaving. Rocky continued on.
I’m not sure how long she stayed on the stage, she later told me the Karaoke man wouldn’t let her leave.
The next day, my mother started getting phone calls from the people who had been at the party. They all thought Rocky was her daughter because of her performance on stage. My mother fessed up to the fact that Rocky was her niece.
Oddly, no one mentioned her son.