Jacqueline M. Ruffino-Platt
What If I wasn’t so busy this past week that I would have had time to write an article? Would you imagine what an incredible story it would be?
Maybe… Well, I believe I had time and an incredible story.
Allow me to begin back to my teen years. During the summer every Tuesday and Thursday evening the county in West New York, New Jersey, opened an outside basketball court from 7 to 10 p.m. and held dances usually for the teenagers. That’s me and my close friends, Arlene, Connie, Gracie, Rosanna, Barbara, Kathy, Margaret, Sandy, Stephanie, Jeannie … hmmm … I know there may be a few whom I forgot.
We would hook up and dance till the music stopped about 10 p.m. During the summer months we climbed into our cars and headed “Down the Shore” known as South Jersey. Our choices were Asbury Park, Keansburg, Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant and Atlantic City. Approximately, four-hour drive to our check in rental. Upon arrival at our rental we opened our suitcases, changed into our bathing suits and head down to the sandy beach and into the Atlantic Ocean. However, there were weekends our families set aside for a ride to the lakes. Greenwood Lake, one of which holds fond memories for me. Found our shaded spot under the trees, outside grill, and began unpacking our food and utensils. Fried chicken, hot dogs, beans, potato salads, watermelon and more than I can remember. Our families knew what to bring to the picnics and everything was delicious.
Years flew by and most of us went our separate ways but still stayed in touch with each other. Reaching the legal age of 21 we promised to meet for a night out on the town listening to live bands at local clubs playing the infamous Rock and Roll. Of course we believed then and now the best music ever.
We drifted apart and our lives moved on but our friendships remained for a very long time. A few of our friends found romance and planned to marry the man of their dreams. As for me, I was dating, however, no Mr. Right yet. Requests began coming in from my friends who asked me to be part of their bridal party. I was honored and accepted my role. One by one our group became smaller and smaller as the girlfriends had a new life with a husband. Years later while going through the closet in my bedroom I counted 15+ gowns from my girlfriends’ weddings. They were beautiful, all styles, all different colors and one more exotic than the next.
Back then each bride promised the bridesmaids gown could be worn again.
Sorry, I had a problem wearing an ankle length, strapless, colorful gown covered with net for any occasion. They hung in my closet for many years with wonderful memories.
I received many beautiful postcards from my friends signed Mr. and Mrs. who were on their honeymoon. Postcards from Florida, Puerto Rico, islands with palm trees and beautiful beaches. Wow, I was a little jealous. Okay a lot jealous. I kept thinking someday that could be me, no that will be me. Time and years moved on and I still have not found my dream man.
Time moves on and I still remember when we ran down the sandy beach into the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. I have not been in contact with all my old buddies. I know most have been gone for some time and I still hold fond memories in my heart. And all I kept thinking, will I ever meet the man with whom I will share my life and travel together?
Years have passed on, and love came to me at the age of 58. I met a wonderful man, John, who turned my whole world around. A caring and thoughtful man. Someone who is kind and wanted to share his life with mine. We began traveling, mostly within the United States. Up North on the East Coast and as far south to Key West, Florida. We cruised to Nassau and the Bahamas on elegant ocean liners and took in all the beautiful sights along the way and ate some great food. A cruise ship to Mexico, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo, St. Lucas and Mazatlán. Another romantic trip to Rocky Point, Mexico; Reno, Nevada; New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas, Nevada; and Lake Tahoe. Stayed at a memorable hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana, walked Bourbon Street, around the city squares and stopped at the famous Café Du Monde for beignet. One year on my birthday John surprised me with a trip to Hawaii. We walked on the white beaches and I wet my feet into the Pacific Ocean for the very first time. A beautiful time and lots of memories. His surprises kept coming. One day he asked if I would like to celebrate another birthday and visit my brother who is a priest in Palermo, Italy.
What a fabulous trip John planned. My dreams became a reality. He always surprises me.
NOTE: Several years prior to our meeting, John served his country years back in the United States Navy and had traveled many countries throughout the world. He saw many different places. Witnessed many situations and served his country well.
BACK IN TIME: Then a thought entered my mind and brought me back to a young age in my teens. My older brother Russell was getting ordained a priest in the Vatican, Italy and he made arrangements for my mom and me to witness the most beautiful, exciting moments we shared. Now all coming back to me. My visits in the foreign countries were Rome, Italy, threw pennies into the Fountain of Trevi, had lunch at an outdoor café in Milan, walked around the grounds in Florence, and went for a gondolier ride in Venice. A visit to Paris, France and stood under the Champs-Elysees, and visited Lisieux, France.
The experience was unending. During our three weeks in Rome, Italy, my brother arranged a private audience with the Holy Father, Pope Pious XII. No words could ever be expressed the feelings at that moment.
This September I turn 80 years young. I put my feet up on my lounge chair and look at my husband and held his hand and feel warmth, love and happiness because we have found each other and have a great life together. One evening I turned to my husband and said, “Wait one moment, we have gone to some of those beautiful places and I would not have made it without you by my side.” The past 20 years we have experienced many trips, places, foods, atmosphere, and beautiful memories. Why did I want more?
I don’t want to turn back the years. I didn’t want to live my friends’ lives; I love my life with my husband who makes me happy, content and safe. I don’t believe I could travel as much today without stopping to sit, catch a breath, be careful of our diets and stay up late at night.
The other day I watched a movie about folks traveling all over the world and said to my husband. I wish I was 20 years old again. Then I thought, I did have it all and love and happiness kept following me then and now. Today, I will move forward with my husband in the direction we have chosen as man and wife to live a beautiful and happy life. Wow, I guess I have traveled to more places than I can ever imagine. As they say … “Been There … Done It.”
Ruby Regina Witcraft
I was going to write on the word of the week but I forgot what the word was. Not so! If you have any age past the drinking age you already started to have memory loss. Who hasn’t opened the fridge just to stand there and try to remember why you came?
The opposite of forgetting is remembering so I am going to tell you about the most memorable times, in my life, that I will never forget. They may not be breathtaking or even seem needing remembering but to me they are.
My dear Italian parents were two of the most endearing people I have ever known. Not only loving each other but, also, my brother and I to a most, exasperating, point to two thoughtless kids.
They couldn’t seem to pet and love us up enough. Daddy, no matter how busy, by teasing us and my mother would always fasten my hair behind my ear, which I hated. They both worked in our family restaurant and, since opera was the music of their younger days, Daddy would, at any time, burst out with an aria from Rigaletto and Mama would respond in the feminine part. Naturally, we thought this was square but I now remember with a smile on my face.
My grade school, a block west of our house, let out at 2:15 and I would head for an empty house as Mama was always, across the street, at work. One, unusual, time, as I approached our house I saw Mama sitting on the glider of our porch. I ran to her and asked what was the matter and she simply said that she missed me and wanted me to know how much she loved me. Another simple but precious time that also makes me, now, smile.
The happiest birthday was my 11th. Mama bought me a pair of riding boots and breaches because I loved horses so much. However, the best part of this birthday was when she took me to the stable, one mile south of the house and rented two horses which we rode for a whole hour.
Thought, I died and went to heaven to have a horse and her all to myself.
My mother loved Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy and no matter how busy she was she never missed their showing at our little Ritz theater, a block from our house. She would take my hand and say: “We are going to see opera with Jeanette and Nelson, today.” After the show we would skip home singing all of the verses of Mayday or whatever else was showing. To this day, I never miss a showing of them on TV. Shed a few tears and smile.
The style of the day, according to Jeanette, was the finger wave. Mama just had to have one and had it done at Hindel Sisters Beauty Shop, up the block. She also gave me her own impression of the wave but neither mine nor hers worked. Our naturally curly hair went to frizz instead of waves. We laughed while looking at ourselves in the mirror.
On picnics, my mother never saw a tree that she just didn’t have to climb. Inviting me to climb with her, makes me smile but Daddy would yell at us, in the top of the tree, to come down before we killed ourselves.
Forget my fun-loving mother? Never!
You Must Have a Lot of Stories to Share
A couple of weeks ago as I was leaving the grocery store I watched an elderly woman struggle to put her groceries in the back of her car. Watching was not what I had in mind. So I quickly went over to help with loading her groceries. She informed me there was a walker in the back seat and she could not grasp it in time. Between the both of us we managed to fill up her back seat and trunk with her items. The temperature was off the charts and I could not imagine this kind lady out and about in the middle of the day. After several words were exchanged and she was safely in her car I asked if she had family living with her or close by. Not one relative. Her husband had passed away several years ago, her children were out of the state and her grandchildren were scattered also within the United States. “I don’t believe my children or grandchildren remember too much about me and what I do.” Because of the unbearable weather and the coronavirus scare we decided to have a telephone visit in the near future. This lady was so delightful and rather intelligent. We exchanged phone numbers and I looked forward to speaking with her soon. When I arrived home I could not stop thinking of this lovely lady who got my attention. Couple of days later my cell phone was chirping to let me know I had a phone call. To my surprise it was my dear parking lot lady I had met at the grocery store. I immediately called her back and we talked for a very long time. At this point I informed her I was a member of the Sun Lakes Writers Group and was eager to have her join us and tell us about her life, her memories and her background. As most of us, we are not very good at writing, typing or sometimes reading as the years escape us. I volunteered to help write her stories, her background, her memories and knew she had a lot to share. She thought that would be senseless because she didn’t think her family would be interested in her life. My insistence wore her down and she decided to give it a try. Just because you, your children, your friends don’t think your life is important, maybe you want to share to prove how important and exciting it was on many occasions.
I stress to my friends, my neighbors, and strangers whom I meet on a day-to-day basis, you are very special and important to many folks. Every one of you has had an interesting life and maybe even a stranger will pick up a short story some day and read how interesting your life was and how you are adding more and more chapters as the years go by. We know you have a lot to share, you just need a little push in that direction and we are here at the Sun Lakes Writer’s Group. Please come join us and bring a friend if you like. YOU are special today and always. We meet every Tuesday afternoon at 1 p.m. in the Ceramics Room (Room 8) at Cottonwood. We are near the library and the pool. We are currently meeting in person while maintaining our six feet of social distancing and encourage mask wearing.
If you have questions about our group, please contact me, Barbara Schwartz, chairperson, at 480-388-0190.