It recently occurred to me that after all these months I have been writing for villages-news.com, I have yet to properly introduce my readers to Bertha. Of all my relatives, friends, co-workers, customers, and acquaintances, she would have to be my most notable.
I believe she is my money maker regarding my future endeavors. My “Bertha Tales” could quickly fill several New York Times Best Sellers. Even better, they have also blessed me with enough stand-up material to last a lifetime.
Bertha was the type of woman that even if you disagreed with her, you would never have the nerve to call her out on it. Why? Because you would end up looking bad. She was just that sweet and lovable. She always had something pleasant to say. She loved giving heartfelt compliments and handing out candy to anyone and everyone she would meet. She even hid treats for both humans and canines in her car. She was indeed a cross between “Dr. Doolittle” and “Willy Wonka.”
Born in Cuba in the late 1930s, Bertha came to the United States at 16. She left her home alone and moved to the “Land of the Free” in the hope of living a healthy, safe, and happy life. I believe that is part of the reason she chose to never grow up.
Bertha spent most of her time learning to speak English and properly understand life as an “American Girl” during her younger years in New York City. She loved the arts, fine food, all musical genres, pretty things, and meeting new people. She was trained to socialize, and she knew how to throw a party and make an entrance at a party.
A classy lady, don’t get me wrong. She always managed to stay true to her natural black hair coloring, yet she was known for her share of silly, “You should have been blonde” moments!
Over the years, I had personally witnessed so many dizzy incidences, I actually quoted the phrase for her epic blunders by saying, “You’re pulling a Bertha!”
To learn proper “American” speech, gestures, and mannerisms, she watched a lot of television. She was taught to watch the daily news broadcasts. Unfortunately, mixed in with all that 1950s “proper mumbo-jumbo,” she watched every episode of “I Love Lucy.” Relating to both Lucy and Ricky characters, Bertha was the perfect combination of both. Like a Spanish-speaking Lucy!
My favorite, “Pulling a Bertha” memory, was the day she locked herself out of her car in the middle of the road – while it was still running. She had just left my house when my phone started ringing. I usually do not answer calls from numbers I don’t have programed, but something made me answer it anyway. Thank goodness I did because it was Bertha, in a bit of a panic. She said she had locked herself out of her car, up by the traffic light near my neighborhood. She stressed the engine was running. Apparently, the man ahead of her in the left turn lane watched from his rearview mirror before he got out to help. He let her use his phone to call me.
It seems she put the leftovers I had given her from our Sunday dinner on the hood of her car as she opened her driver’s door to leave. Then she forgot about it for nearly five blocks. Luckily she did notice it before she turned onto any main roads.
Sadly, she’d done this so many times, I insisted on holding a spare key, just in case. I can’t count how many times she would call me at all hours of the day requesting my assistance in a parking lot somewhere in town. It got so frequent at one point that I actually left her keys FOB in the glove compartment of my car. This way, if she called, I was always ready. I had it down to a system. She’d call me. I’d drive to her location, crack my driver’s window, hit the clicker, and then shout, “You’re welcome. I’ll call you later,” as I drove off.
Ditzy to a fault with a smile like a rainbow, I, like everyone else, could never really get upset with her. Through our 20, 30, 40, 50-year friendship, she is still my mother. Some say this apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I hope not because I would LOVE my daughters to remember me as the sweetest “fruit loop” in the orchard! It’s definitely better than being a rotten apple. (In Loving Memory)
Laugh on. Peace out!
Lisa DeMarco is a columnist for Villages-News.com