The other day, I saw something posted on my Cousin Christina’s Facebook page. I didn’t recognize the people in the photo, but she had written in the comment section: 33 years today and how many women married a rapist?
I was puzzled and wondered if my cousin was speaking about the couple in the wedding photo. They looked familiar, but I just couldn’t place them. I haven’t seen my young cousin for many years because she had moved cross country and I assumed it was a member of her extended family especially because the couple looked so damn familiar.
I quickly responded with “What??? Who???” I was shocked to even imagine this happening in our family. Maratea women are strong willed and street smart and we're not prone to allowing anyone to attack us and, live another day. I was definitely curious about the people in her comment. I waited for Christina’s response.
Her quick reply was this: Luke and Laura were on General Hospital 33 years ago. Before they married on the show, they were friends. One day he raped her and they fell in love. It was a scandal on daytime TV at that time.
Luke and Laura from General Hospital? Oh my goodness, my cousin was talking about a soap opera. I don’t watch soap operas, but my mother did and it reminded me of an incident that happened when I was about thirteen years old.
We all worked long hours in the grocery store, but every day and I’m not too sure of the time, my mother would walk the three city blocks to my Aunt Louise’s house to watch their soap operas with "As the World Turns" being their favorite. They did this religiously. We didn’t have any way to tape shows back in the day, so if you wanted to know what was happening with the characters, you had to watch the show when it aired. When my mother returned from these visits, she would then watch the store so that my dad could take a nap. Some days, my mother would come home cursing under her breath, “Stunad or putana.”
“What’s wrong, ma?” I would ask, but she would only shake her head and add, “Don’t you ever do what Edith did!”
Ruth Warrick as Edith Hughes
Ruth Warrick as Edith Hughes
“Who’s Edith?” I would ask, but my mother refused to tell me. So there I was wondering what this mysterious Edith did to piss off my mother. How could I keep from walking in Edith’s shoes if I didn’t know what she did or who she was? On the few occasions when my Aunt Louise came over our house to watch the show, my siblings and I, who were normally rowdy by nature, knew better than to bother my mother while she watched her "Soaps". My mother had slippers that acted like heat seeking missiles.
One day, while I was helping my father put the frozen veggies in the freezer, my mother entered the store crying her eyes out. She had just returned from my Aunt Louise’s house, so right away my dad asks if his sister Louise is okay, but my mother just runs upstairs. “Call Aunt Louise on the phone and see if she’s okay,” my father ordered.
When my aunt answered the phone, she was also crying. “Aunt Louise, daddy wants to know if you’re okay.” I said.
“No, I’m not okay. I can’t believe she died,” my aunt replied.
“Who died?” My aunt said a name, but I didn’t recognize it. Maybe it was one of the second cousins.
“Oh, okay...I’ll tell daddy (blank) died.” Look, I was thirteen and didn’t know how to handle both my mom and favorite aunt crying, so I hung up the phone and went back into the store to tell my father what Aunt Louise had told me.
“I don’t know that person,” my father said as he glanced at the wall clock. It was time for his nap and Lucy was still up in her bedroom crying. We could hear her all the way on the first floor. “Go get your mother and tell her I need to take my nap.” I yelled up the stairway for my mom to come into the store. Fred got cranky when he didn’t get his nap on time.
When my mother entered the store, her eyes were red from all the crying. She started to take care of the customers who were there as my father and I finished putting the frozen food away. Right before he took off his apron, he asked my mother about the death. “When’s the funeral? I’ll have to shut the store.”
“Are you $&%*#% crazy? I need to know when the funeral is so I can make sure I get the milk and bread delivery done earlier in the day.”
My mother wiped her tears, looked Fred in the eye and said, “Real funny, like we can go to Hollywood.”
Fred threw the apron on the freezer and stomped out of the store and headed upstairs for his nap, but he cursed the entire way up the steps. It wasn’t until after dinner when my Aunt Louise and Uncle Jack came over for coffee and to play cards that we all found out who had died.
No one! Yep, that’s right. The person who died or was murdered was only a character on one of my mother’s soaps, but the way my mom and aunt behaved you would have thought it was their best friend.
Needless to say, my father made sure he teased my mom about this for the longest time, which brings me back to my Cousin Christina’s post. I never got in the habit of watching soap operas, but I can understand when people, who do watch them, get upset. These characters come into your home every day, same time, same station and, like it or not, they do become like family and we mourn them when they die or celebrate even if they marry the man who raped them. I guess when you think about it, my mother's addiction to soap operas was no different than my addiction is today for "The Walking Dead".
Thank you Cousin Christina for reminding me about this funny story.