Frank and the Reunion

I thought I had something ready to say this week but I find myself needing to give the person I wanted to write about more of a tribute; I will have to work on it.Instead, I’ll give a tribute to two other ladies in my life. And I am just plain tired, so I will copy and paste another story  concerning a celebrity, my mother and, yes, (once again), spaghetti sauce. I hope you enjoy it:

Sometime in the sixties we started getting letters to attend family reunions in
North Carolina, promising good old-fashioned Southern hospitality. My father  was estranged from his family most of the time. We seldom had contact with many
relatives, and  some of them were  unaware of my existence, or had
forgotten me, for many years….until I started calling them a few years ago. But back then, one of the letters was from an “Aunt Amy”, (of
whom I’d never heard), saying that she was “sure that your boys are grown by
now”, (one boy, two girls; two teens, one younger ), and saying that “Uncle
Floyd”, (another new one on me ), was failing and that this might be his last
reunion, so wouldn’t we come to the reunion? To my knowledge, my father never answered the letter.
Then one of my cousins, again, whom I did not know, started calling our house,
speaking with my mother. My mother was incapable of saying a clear “no”
to anyone, including those who begged her for an answer so that they wouldn’t
have to pay a caterer for a meal that she would not attend, but she would never
directly turn anyone down. My mother talked with the cousin
extensively… what a nice time she had when she had visited North Carolina,(she was a Pennsylvania girl), how fond she had been of my grandmother and assorted relatives . Yes, it would be nice to see everyone and the children that everyone had, and of course it would
be wonderful to take we children down, etc. They even got into it about food,
as my cousin’s parents and several others had told her what a fantastic cook my
mother was, so speculation about making spaghetti sauce at the reunion came into
play. If you only knew how little chance of my mother making spaghetti sauce
in someone else’s kitchen, with in-laws around yet, well, you DON’T know.
Heck, we were even more likely to GO! We never vacationed, never traveled as a
family. This would NEVER happen. Never. Not ever. Martians could invade. The
dinosaurs could return. Mom could become president, but the spaghetti had no
chance of ever being made in front of anyone else.
Every once in a while one of my father’s brothers, whom I saw once in my
life, would bend an elbow, remember my mother’s spaghetti sauce, and call for
the recipe. She never sent it. One time, he was so insistent, and not too smashed
to remember that he had asked before and not received the promised formula,
that she gave my sister an Italian cookbook, (which Mom never used ), and told
her to type out any spaghetti sauce recipe in it to send to him. I don’t think
that letter got sent, either.
My mother kept putting the niece-by-marriage off every
time that she called, grumbled that “that girl couldn’t take a hint”, and she was running out of excuses.
Finally, my mother told her that “she didn’t think that we be going”. After all
the time that she had put into speaking with Mom, the girl was not going to give up easily.

Mom complained to everyone. One of my sister’s friends had become very close
to our family. As a matter of fact, there are still people who think that she is a
half sister, as that is what she and my sister told them. She even put up with
being made the older of the two, although actually a year younger, to make the
story believable, as she was a strong girl with a hearty voice. My sister and I were slighter, looked much alike, and our brother resembled us as well.. She had always
called my mother “Mom”, (and Mom later became “Mema Joyce“ to the girl’s
Clearly speaking, Brenda is a character; smart, but a character. A book could be
written on her teen years alone. She was around quite a bit at that time, and she
heard Mom on the phone with my frustrated cousin, and then listened to Mom
But back tot he story: Mom was Frank Sinatra’s biggest devotee. Hands down. No one
comes near in competition. Frank could do no wrong. Even when he did do
something well, not apparently for the best, he must have had a good reason, so
we just were not to question his mysterious ways. We were raised on his music; I can sing any of
his songs, with every intonation, every inflection. Never mind that I have no
voice. I know how it should go. ( Do you know what his theme song was? You might think that you do but unless you said, “Put Your Dreams Away” you’re wrong.) In fact , Frank, (oh, yeah, Frank
was so much a part of our lives, he was referred to just as Frank, and we knew
who she meant; he was just “with us ”. Coincidentally, Frank even had a daughter, a son and then another daughter, just as Mom had, but apparently there had been so much unwanted publicity surrounding “Nancy, Junior” when she was young that Frank and “Nancy, Senior” had kept the rest of their children’s lives relatively quiet.
Mom didn’t even know that Frank, Jr. existed until a few years before this, (and
cried when she saw him), nor did she know until then of Tina,(whose
birthday is, strangely enough, the same as mine).
Frank had no equal.  Mom would never have cheapened her ”relationship” with Frank by following his life through tabloids. To have tracked his family through magazines and gossip columns would have lowered her status to mere “fan”; no, their spiritual bond transcended mundane notions such as their earthly lives. I am certain that she would have turned down any opportunity to meet him ,as that would have been akin to looking God in the face. It would also have been too hard to find that he may be only human after all.
Now, you understand that we are going back before cable TV,  even before VCR’s, and Frank wasn’t on the tube much. He was, however, going to be on The Tonight Show one evening during this time, and he was going to sing one of Mom’s favorite songs, to
boot. Just as Frank came on, the phone rang, on the other end was a familiar
accent, asking one last time if my mother was sure that we wouldn’t be going to
the reunion. My mother was beside herself; the girl gave it her best shot to get her to agree to go to North Carolina,
and finally gave up, just as Frank was going off. The next day, Mom could not
contain herself. Her only chance to see Frank sing whatever-it-was! How could
she not have gotten through to that girl? She hadn’t called in days, and my
mother thought for sure she’d given up. Mom had even had to come right out and tell her that we would not be going! And she called so late, and during FRANK! Brenda roared with laughter.

It had not been my cousin at all. Brenda had put her young sister-in-law, whom
Mom did not know, up to making the call. Mom was shocked. It had been a young woman’s
voice with a soft southern accent. It seems that sometime when my cousin called, Brenda had answered the phone and gotten an idea of my cousin’s voice. Mom had only been half listening the night before;
she had been trying desperately to hear Frank, and that was exactly what Brenda
had been banking on.
Brenda still needed something to pull. She couldn’t upset Mom any further, so she
had told her sister-in-law that my mother was angry with her, furious that they
had carried off that stunt. Months later, we ran into Brenda and the girl and Brenda ceremoniously introduced her sister-in-
law to Mom, knowing the effect. Mom’s eyes widened. “Oh, Mrs. Joyce!” the
girl cried, taking my mother’s hands and throwing herself on Mom’s mercy,
“Don’t be mad at me. I’m so sorry about calling you that night, but Brenda
made me do it. She said if I didn’t that she was going to put in a false alarm
and send the fire engines!” Brenda roared again. But she felt bad, as Mom never
let her live it down, so years later she
bought Mom the complete” Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music”. She was,
however, still Brenda. She said that she told the clerk that it was for “an old
lady”; Mom was in her fifties. Mom had always threatened to get even with
Brenda, but never did. Before we moved out of state, Brenda would come over
often when Mom made spaghetti
and Mom would send some home with her in our best casserole dishes. The day
Mom died, I talked to Brenda for the first time in years, and reminded her. She
had wondered where she had gotten all the flowered Corning Ware.
Later that week, Brenda emailed me. My mother loved what she called, “hard
rolls”; firm, brown Kaiser rolls with poppy seeds. She remembered Mom
with her cold, strong coffee and hard rolls; had Mom still enjoyed them? She had just been to the store, passed by a display of rolls and started to cry.



About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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15 Responses to Frank and the Reunion

  1. pjharjo says:

    Breat Blog, Tonette! I LOVE Brenda! LOL! Your mom sounds like she was quite the character, too! I had visions of Lucy Ricardo running through my mind with your descriptions! LOL!


    • Thanks,Janette…(I make typos all the time;I’m good at reading them!) Oh, actually, Mom was not animated at all. And she only let herself go once in a while, and and with those closest to her. This one was the biggest time!That’s what makes it so funny to me.I am glad you didn’t have to know either ladies to appreciate the story.


      • pjharjo says:

        This one being her “biggest time is what probably made it so funny to me and what put LR in my mind, too! It was entertaining in that I can imagine someone being so fixated on someone/thing like your mom was on “Frank.” And then to miss his TV performance bc of a stupid phone call! LOL! The FRUSTRATION she must have felt! LOL! Sorry, I meant, um, poor mom. 🙂


      • Frank Sinatra had a LOT of fans that were over-the-top,but most would have killed to meet him,(literally).He had a mystique that I don;t think anyone ever has or ever will come close to, but ,yeah, thanks,Janette; it WAS funny and yeah, poor Mom!


  2. pjharjo says:

    I meant “Great” Blog. 😉


  3. jeff7salter says:

    Day late this time. Not sure how Friday completely disappeared, but I know I was busy all day.
    Gosh, you certainly have a diverse and interesting family. Lots of jokesters too, it seems.
    I was a minor fan of Frankie … liked him in a few movies (mostly his war movies). And loved a FEW of his songs. The ones I didn’t like were mainly a product of the time period in which he sang them — lots of brass (which I generally don’t like). Two of my all time favs of his is “Strangers in the Night” and “My Way”. Another is: “it’s three o’clock…”
    There was an absorbing bio-pic about Frankie with an actor playing the title role who’s mostly known for his gangster or rogue cop roles. I’ll think of his name in a minute.


    • “It’s a quarter to three, there’s no one in the place, except you and me.” Right? That’s “One For My Baby,[And One More For the Road]”.
      You have to realize that my mother was a quiet young Italian girl when Frank hit the scene;she was, as many other females were, all-consumed.However, it never ceases to amaze me of the male devotees Frank had.
      I believe you may be thinking of Ray Liotta….he will always be in my heart as Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams”.
      “Diverse”! Thank you,Jeff! Most people just admit that my family is nuts.


  4. Iris B says:

    Goodness gracious, Tonette ! That was like a rollercoaster to read and needed my fullest attention … but I think i got the gist of it …. LOL
    Can’t say much about Frank S … loved the taken on sister Brenda … and I’m hoping the recipe for the infamous spaghetti sauce lies somewhere and your mum didn’t take it with her!


    • You notice that I didn’t say a whole lot about Frank from myself,Iris! Sorry if you found this convoluted.
      One thing that is common in Italians from every region is their need to cook and their iron grip on their recipes and cooking secrets…my grandmother took most of hers to her grave. I was the trustworthy one who ,I BELIEVE, had access to my mother’s secrets. Although I was sworn to secrecy ,I no longer feel bound. I KNOW what my mother did, but there is no was my sauce and a few other things come out as good as hers for a couple of reasons: 1.) She intuitively knew how to balance ALL of the variants in the ingredients and 2.) There is no way anyone has the time to add just the right amounts of ingredients at just the right times, all day long. Seriously, only a few spices,herbs and tomato products were added at the same time at any time during the process, let alone the barely boiling water I can’t tell you HOW many times,little by little, she added. No, not even I can replicate it.I may get up the nerve to put the recipe on my blog eventually,along with easier versions, eventually.
      (Suffice it to say, mine is good enough that my husband will not allowed jarred sauce in the house, which means, he doesn’t get spaghetti very often! I make big batches and freeze it to make Chicken Parmesan, Stuffed Shells and Lasagne. )


      • pjharjo says:

        And besides that, no one can cook as good as “mom,” huh Tonette? 😉 My momma is NOT Italian, but I still can’t cook some dishes as good as her! LOL!


      • To be honest,I can come close to my mother in many dishes and I make other types of foods, but you can ask my husband and all of my family,including cousins and as I said in the story , her in-laws, they’ll tel you that the woman had a magical way with food.


      • Iris B says:

        Reading about the spaghettis yesterday made me cook it last night …. LOL … it’s something on my not to eat list because of my illness, but it was delicous nonetheless. I gave a silent thanks to you and your mum 😉


      • I hope you enjoyed it,Iris but that it had no ill effects.Take care of yourself!


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