Thursday, 23 May 2019
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Thursday, 20 October 2016 09:32

Dear Mom

I wrote this letter to my deceased mother in 2009,
when I first started writing my memoir, "The Road Back to Hell".

I awoke this morning to another damp pillow. Once again, I had traveled in my dreams to a Friday night at the Phoenix. Was it ’53 or‘54? I know I was only three or four years old. Remember, Mom? It was just the three of us--you, Daddy and me.

After our downtown shopping trip, we took a bus to the Phoenix, the neighborhood bar, and grill. This is where we spent  many of our Friday nights. The flashing neon lights, the laughter from within and the sounds of the thumping piano keys beckoned us. Once inside the smoky bar, Dorothy Brooks would look up from the piano, smile at us with her ruby-red lips and change the music from whatever she was playing to “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here!” Then she would announce loud enough for everyone to hear, “Look, here comes Stewie, Bonnie, and little Diana.”

Did you get as excited as I did, Mom? I felt like every eye in the house was on us and I beamed like a princess or a movie star!

Dorothy would stand up from the piano stool to give us all a kiss. I can still feel her lips on my cheek and smell her strong perfume. Was it Shalimar? Her lipstick imprint probably stayed on my face all evening long. How about those evening gowns she wore? Do you think she ever wore any of them more than once?

Didn’t she make you feel special, Mom? I remember tingling with excitement because I knew what a wonderful night lie ahead of us. I was proud that so many people knew us and talked to us as we made our way to our table. Those people were regulars, just like you and Dad, and they too, were probably looking for a few laughs, a few drinks and a few hours away from their lives outside the Phoenix doors.

We would choose a table close to the piano, and you and Dad would order drinks. I can’t remember what you drank. I know it wasn't beer then. Dad would order a beer, and that was fine. It was later when he changed to whiskey that you would give him a dirty look. Then you would order a Shirley Temple for me, and whisper in my ear, “You’re my Shirley Temple.” You were always saying that to me, and I loved it. In fact, looking back, I think I began to believe I was a star like Shirley Temple!

I began to fidget as I waited for Dorothy to call Dad up to sing. She finally walked away from the piano, put her lips up to the microphone and said, “Stewie Smith, are you going to sing and play for us tonight?’

Everyone began clapping, and my eyes filled with adoration for Stewie Smith, my Dad. I knew you were as proud as I was, Mom because I saw it in your eyes. Dad sat down at the piano and soon we would hear the beautiful tenor strains of his voice as he sang, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” Remember how he always closed his eyes whenever he sang? Didn’t you think he looked like he was far away in dreamland? Before, it was over, everyone in the room was singing along, and when he finished, the room filled with applause. I was bursting with pride!

Then he would say, “Diana Lynn, come on up here.” My knees were shaking as I walked toward the piano. Hoisting me up on top of the table next to him, he would take the microphone into his hand and look directly into my eyes while he sang, “Daddy’s Little Girl.”  In my head, I can still hear every word and every note of that song. Whenever I’ve heard that song over the years, I’ve stopped in my tracks and remembered.

I remember how very special it made me feel, and how lucky I was to have a Dad who loved me so much. I knew then I would do everything in my power for the rest of my life, to sustain the love and pride he felt for me. After he finished singing to me, he would look over at you with love in his eyes and say, “And this is for my beautiful wife, Bonnie Jean. Then he would sing, “Because of You.”

The night wasn’t over yet. Soon, Dorothy would call you up to sing. Isn’t it sad that I cannot remember what you sang? All I remember is being proud of you, too, although I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I worried you might not pull it off. I sweat through every note you sang. However, with your lovely face, beautiful, dark-brown hair, which was always perfectly coiffed, and your smoky voice, you always carried it off. I clapped and clapped along with everyone else. You were my Mom, and I was proud to be your daughter.

Then it was my turn. Dorothy invited “Darling, little Diana” to come up and dance. Dad played the piano, and I began to ballet; the dance you had taught me at home. I felt just like a princess, never wanting the moment to end.

This evening is probably the fondest memory I have of my childhood.

So you see, Mom, it wasn’t always heartache and pain. It was the best it would ever be-- just the three of us, when you and Dad were still in love.

Years later when we went to the Phoenix, the magic had faded. Still, whenever I hear the words or the music to any of those songs, my heart and mind travel back to that magical, mystical time.  We know though, don’t we Mom that magic doesn’t last forever?

Mom, I do not think I ever thanked you while you were alive, so I am doing it now. Thanks for instilling in me the strength and confidence that helped me become the woman I am today.  

I loved you Mom,

Your daughter- Diana Lynn

More in this category: « Christmas at Our House-2011

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