The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
I became aware that I had a cousin Bobby at one of our family occasions, a wedding or a seder, I don’t remember which. Bobby was the only son of my Uncle Mel, who was a fur salesman.
His mother, Aunt Peggy, was different from the rest of my family. She was from Boston, not from New York, and had a Boston accent. It was said that her parents were well-to-do. I didn’t know how Uncle Mel had met her; maybe she’d come in for a fur coat and he’d swept her off her feet. He was good-looking and a glib talker, very unlike my father, who was a plumber, bald and taciturn. The family legend was that my father and Uncle Mel had been strolling along the boardwalk in Coney Island when they’d met my mother and a girl friend and that Uncle Mel had taken up with my mother but when my father had indicated his preference he’d agreed to switch.
At any rate, at that wedding or seder, I met Bobby for the first and only time. He was in college and I had just started high school. He told me that when I got to college I was to be sure to make good contacts. This was very important. I suppose Bobby himself made good contacts in college because he obtained a good job in a large insurance company and was to marry, like his father, a girl from a well-to-do family. It was Bobby’s impending wedding that was to become a family issue and then another family legend.
I was in college by then, not making any good contacts that I can recall, and not terribly interested in the upcoming wedding. I do, however, have a vivid memory of the big family meeting when I’d come home one weekend. Several uncles and aunts had come over to our apartment in the Bronx and, from what I gathered, Bobby’s wedding was to be an extravagant and expensive affair in a Manhattan hotel, and members of our family were not to be invited. It wasn’t clear if this was Bobby’s decision because he didn’t want his upper class in-laws-to-be to meet and possibly be shocked by his decidedly not upper class family or if the decision was Uncle Mel’s or possibly Aunt Peggy’s.
“The nerve of them,” said Uncle Isaac. “Who do they think they are?”
“So, they think we’re not good enough for them,” said Aunt Ethyl.
“It must have been that Bobby,” said Uncle Sol. “Mel would never insult us like that.”
“Maybe it was that Peggy,” said Aunt Bernice. “I always thought she was snooty.”
“Do we get them wedding presents or not?”
“What presents? I’m not getting presents for a wedding I don’t even get invited to?”
“Anything we get wouldn’t be good enough anyway.”
“So, should we call Mel.”
“I don’t want to call him.”
“We should make an effort.”
“I say phooey to them.”
And so it went on through the afternoon. My cousin Ben, who was about my age, had come over with his mother and father, Uncle Isaac and Aunt Ethyl, and finally we decided to escape from the apartment and went out to a nearby park to play catch. “What do you think?” I asked Ben.
“I don’t know. I think it’s a whole lot of fuss about nothing.”
In the event, my father did call Uncle Mel and in the end the family was invited to the posh wedding. Thankfully, the wedding was in June, when I was in the middle of my final exams so I didn’t go. My cousin Ben did go and reported later that the bride’s family wasn’t too shocked although there were a few awkward moments as when Uncle Sol asked the bride’s father how much the wedding had cost him and Aunt Bernice, who always got tipsy after one drink, spilled some wine on the bride’s dress.
Life, as it always does, went on. I moved from New York to California, got married myself, had three sons, worked many years as a civil servant (I probably should have made better contacts) and eventually retired. My aunts and uncles as well as my mother and father passed on. I did keep in touch with my cousin Ben, who became a lawyer and then also retired. He’d stayed in New York and he and his wife lived in Brooklyn. He had a habit of calling me when he’d gone to some gathering he’d gotten tired of or during the intermission of a play. On one of these calls, he said he’d had lunch with Bobby the previous week.
“Bobby? Who’s Bobby?”
“We have a cousin Bobby?” I’d completely forgotten.
“You know, the one whose wedding the family made such a big fuss over.”
It slowly began to come back to me. “That Bobby? What do you know?”
“Yes, he lives in Queens. We see each other every now and then.”
“So, how’s he doing?”
“Not too good. He wanted me to lend him some money.”
“What, you’re kidding. I thought he had a good job and a rich wife.”
“Well, the rich wife wasn’t that rich and besides she divorced him and then his second wife divorced him and he has to pay alimony to both of them and so he’s broke.”
“I’ll be darned. So after all the big to-do about the fancy wedding the marriage didn’t last. Did you lend him the money?”
“Yes, he’s still family, but not as much as he asked. The play’s starting so I have to go.”
“Right. Enjoy the show.”
After I hung up, a flood of memories came rushing in, all of those long-gone aunts and uncles, the discussions, the arguments. I suppose there was a morale to the eventual fate of my cousin Bobbie, the upward-striving family member who’d ended by having to borrow money. I wished now that I could be back in that Bronx apartment with Aunt Ethyl and Uncle Isaac, Aunt Bernice and Uncle Sol and the rest of them. Most of all, I wished that I’d gone to that famous wedding.
© Martin Green December 2015
Arnold was walking through his old neighborhood in the Bronx. Back in his parents’ apartment it was frantic, his mother scurrying around, food being placed on tables; it was as if the President was coming for a visit...