Between myself, my cousin Terry and my cousin Catherine, there were ten months difference in age. I was the oldest and Terry the youngest. Terry and I were always dark complected while Catherine, who was sandwiched in middle, had blonde hair and blue eyes. As different as her coloring was to ours, so was her personality. We were so wild; she was the good girl. Whenever we were doing something incorrigible, Catherine would run for the hills.
From the time we were about three years old our mothers, who were sisters, would stand Catherine and I on either end with Terry in the middle. She was always the smallest. They would have us sling our pocketbooks around our necks and take a picture. I still have some of these black and white glossy pics, probably taken with a Kodak box camera and those flashbulbs that burned your hand when you removed them.
For the next fifty-five or so years, whenever the three of us got together, we would take one of these pictures no matter where we were. My baby sister Christine, and my cousin Camille, never got over the fact that even when they were old enough to carry pocketbooks, even when they were full grown adults, we didn’t let them join in the picture. This was something just for the three of us and Christine and Camille were younger sisters to Terry and I. Catherine didn’t have a sister. She had two brothers, Tommy and Johnny. We had no problem with them wanting to be in the picture.
I guess it was kind of mean that we didn’t allow the younger siblings to join in the posed picture, but boy it gave us so many laughs. When Christine and Camille got older I believe that they also enjoyed the joke even though they called us names. The pocketbook picture ended when my cousin Catherine died a few years ago. Terry and I decided that we would never pose with our pocketbooks again.
During the years I lived on Bay 14 Catherine and I became close. She wasn’t married at the time, and spent many hours with me. One of the things we got to do was go to Broadway Plays. I remember seeing Play it Again Sam with Woody Allen, Mame with Ann Miller, Hair and Old Calcutta, with the original casts. I think in that entire Broadway theatre there couldn’t have been more than twenty women in the audience for Hair and Calcutta. I am certain that ninety percent of the people were there to see the naked actors on stage. It was the first time I had ever seen red male pubic hair. I guess it made an impression.
On Broadway night we would put on our best Marvella jewelry (she was a sales rep) jump on the BMT and head into Manhattan. We sometimes had another friend with us, Antoinette. We were breaking loose, especially me as I was the only married one and it wasn’t easy getting a sitter for these nights. Theater and eating out. In those days you could eat on the cheap in Manhattan and see a Broadway play with twofers.
We were very young, between nineteen and twenty-one and could be silly girls despite real responsibilities at home. One of the inexplicable games we would play while riding the subway was talk to each other in a made up language. We would gesture wildly, roll our eyes and then laugh so hard at some gibberish the other said. We could keep this up from Broadway and 42nd Street all the way back to the 86th Street Station in Brooklyn. We never played the game going in. When heading for Broadway you must be sophisticated. But on the way home there were always plenty of people on the train to be audience to our antics. One time someone asked what language we were speaking. Catherine just bugged out her beautiful blue eyes, and I went into peals of laughter. Antoinette replied in the gibberish.
We were very different, Catherine and I, and I was always pulling rank on her. I was the oldest and would use that anytime I wanted my own way. This would really frustrate her at times. We would fight, but always make up. No matter what, I could never get really mad at her, although I am sure she hated me at times. She was as stubborn as I, but she was kinder and more affectionate.
RIP – Cousin Catherine. I love you and I miss you.