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A Big “Stinger”

March 3, 2015

Today is the 23rd anniversary of my mom’s passing. She was a force of nature; making you crazy one minute, making you laugh the next. This story is proof.

 “Franzes!” I heard my mother’s irritated scream echoing along the metal hallways of the Queen Mary. My father and I exchanged knowing glances and knew our tour of the engine room was over. My dad loved seeing the ship’s quarters as they were during World War II, when the Queen Mary was pressed into service. But, clearly, something was wrong.

I heard her again, an unmistakable edge in her voice. She was thoroughly ticked off. As we rushed to her, I wondered what people were thinking. Did they think she was hurt, crazy or just rude? Did they think we were awful for leaving her alone?

For once, I was thankful I knew no one in Southern California. When we reached her she had a scowl on her flushed face. She loudly blurted out, “Where da damned hell a you been? My guts is a commin out! I beenna a waitin over an hour for youns an I’mma tired. Whatta took a you so damma a long a? Lettsa go!”

Thank God, I was so intent on the speech I was about to make, I wasn’t paying attention to the bystanders probably waiting for this fireplug of an Italian woman to drop her innards on the deck. “My guts izza commin out,” is not vernacular in these parts.

(Don’t worry, her guts did not make an appearance.)

I started reprimanding her quietly as we headed for the car in the parking lot and didn’t let up for ten minutes. She meekly got into the back seat and my dad and I got into the front.

I raised my voice as I steered us out of the parking lot. “I can’t believe you Ma, why were you yelling? You knew we were on a tour. We told you we’d be back. We weren’t gone more than twenty minutes.  Why did you start yelling in front of all those people? Do you know how embarrassing that was? Plus, it’s rude.

At first she was defiant, barking back her story of how she was tired and felt like her insides were coming out. (It does happen to women.  It’s called prolapsed uterus, which I didn’t understand at the time, so I now have to live with the guilt that her guts probably really were coming out!)

She said she didn’t know when we’d be back or where we’d gone, which was not true. But, if stretching the truth gave her an edge, she always went for it.

Then, she started to feel bad. She knew I could excuse pretty much anything, except making a scene. She knew I was angry, guts or no guts. She knew this because I maturely told her I had nothing to say to her.

I drove about forty minutes without saying a word to her, and for an Italian woman, a world without talking is worse than death. She tried engaging me, but I ignored her completely. (I know, I know, I feel hideous now.) Finally, as we got close to home, I felt her heavy hand tap my shoulder.

She was half crying as she handed me a small, rolled up piece of paper, and in a cracking voice she said, “Pleece Frenzes, take a dis.” I took it, parked the car, and as I headed toward my apartment I unrolled the paper. Inside was a twenty dollar bill. The note said:Mom's Stinger letter

I walked up the sidewalk toward my apartment, trying to look stern as I read, but I could feel myself starting to laugh. I think I believe she even signed, “Your Mother,” on the twenty. I wish I would have kept it.

One minute I was ready to strangle her, the next I was laughing at her creative spelling, her attempted bribery, and the fact that she signed the twenty, “Your Mother,”  like I wouldn’t know who it was from.

I turned toward her and said, “Ma, I don’t want the twenty dollars, I just want you to think about what you do.” With big tears in her eyes and her mouth a sad crescent, she shook her head violently, pushed the money back in my hand and said, “No, you keep id a. Imma sorry Frenzy, I just a wanna you to love a me.”

Her voice was shaking and she continued, “Wen a you dond a talk a to me, I can’d a take itta, pleece a don’d aver do datta to me. You really hurt a me.”

I felt hideous for reprimanding my mother so badly, she felt payola was necessary. I reached out to her to give her a hug and said, “It’s okay Ma, I’m not mad at you.”

I can still feel the warmth of her sturdy round arms and shoulders as I bent slightly to hug her under the yellow overhead light of my porch. I can still smell the clean soapy Dial fragrance of her skin.

We stood there in the entryway hugging for what seemed like a long time. She never liked to let go first, but when she did she looked up at me with such repentant eyes that I almost believed she would never cause a scene again.

You know, if I could have her back, I’d take a scene, anytime.

Low cal and yummy; wine and peaches.

Low cal and yummy; wine and peaches sitting on top of the table runner my sweet Aunt Maria crocheted.

I’ve been bad and haven’t been cooking a lot, but I’ve been drinking more (not a good sign). This week, I highly recommend you buy some canned peaches and cut them up in your next glass of wine. My dad used to do this. I’ve been doing it and it’s a wonderful way to pretend it’s summer, end a meal and avoid a fattening dessert.

  • Reply
    I Could Use Your Help – Can You Nominate Me? | At Fran's Table
    June 8, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    […] A Big Stinger – 989 words – March 2015 […]

  • Reply
    March 9, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Hey random question Fran-is your name short for Francesca? My full name is Francesca (I’m named after my Calabrian great grandpa Francesco).

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 10, 2015 at 8:04 am

      Hi Frannie! Actually, I was going to be named after one of two uncles, Uncle Frank or Uncle Fred, and Uncle Frank won. (Why they couldn’t pick girl names is beyond me.) So, my full name is Frances, not Francesca. But when I’m in Italy, I am Francesca, which I think is very cool. I should go by Francesca anyway! Thanks for reading and writing!!!!

  • Reply
    March 7, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Fran, just read your tribute (aren’t they all, really?) to your mom’s passing. Your mom is looking down on her beloved Frenzie and showering you with twenties. It’s sadly true that no matter how much our mom’s pushed us to the brink (or we wanted to push them over the brink), all of us who’ve lost our wonderfully crazy mothers wish for another day in the asylum. I just know that your mom is proud of the girl she raised and the amazing woman you’ve become. Love you and love your mom–even though I’ve only gotten to know her through your wonderful writing.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 7, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      Love you Linda, thank you so much. My mom would have loved you too!

  • Reply
    March 4, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Another good one. TOO funny. I’ll have to say, I thought about her too. Not sure why this year more than others. I tried again on the Ellen site for ya but think I screwed up. And I even played the old Price is Right video over again. She sure is unforgettable, but then again, some of the things we experienced with her make it hard NOT to forget! They play some of those old songs at work that I so vividly remember her singing every word to! Sheesh! I don’t remember you telling that story Fran, although I am sure you did, but it’s been a while. I forgot about the wine & peaches too. Remember, “you gadda what it ta-ges, Frenzie!”

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 4, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Thanks Mare. I have a few stories up my sleeve still. Can’t tell all of them. Thanks, as always, for reading and taking the time to comment. xo

  • Reply
    Matilda Novak
    March 3, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    The way you write, Beloved Franzie, i can Hear your Mama (and even See what is taking place).
    This one made me cry.
    And makes me want to be infinitely more patient, especially with those i love.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 3, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      Aww Matilda, I didn’t mean to make you cry. I’m glad it touched you though. She had her moments, but she was so special to me that after 59 years, I still have to write about her. Guess that says it all. And yes, patience is a real virtue…I’m still working on cultivating more of it.

  • Reply
    Diane Finley
    March 3, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Beautiful story, Fran. That silent treatment must be an Italian thing; my Mom had it down to a science. What a wonderful relationship and thanks for sharing! Love you, Di

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 3, 2015 at 11:40 pm

      Awww Di, who knows, we’re probably related! Silence can cut right through the heart of an Italian, hence it’s effectiveness. She loved me in spite of it. Thanks so much for always being so supportive of my writing Di, you are a fabulous friend. If you’re ever in L.A. you better let me know!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    What a wonderful story you wrote Frenzy, especially appropriate on this anniversary. Your mom would LOVE that you are writing about her so adoringly and keeping her so present with her stories and recipes…She would also be impressed (as am i) that you are taking swimming lessons!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 3, 2015 at 11:37 pm

      Dahlink, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, it makes my heart soar like a lilla butterfly. I’ll keep you updated on the swimming!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    great story Fran!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    What a wonderful memory! My Mom just passed about 2 months ago and I am so glad for all the great memories but I miss her so terribly. As much as they may drive us a bit crazy, once they are gone, you know you would take it back in a second. I am so grateful she was only sick the last 2 years, but it has been just very hard with me being an only child. It does seem like the time is flying by and I don’t really want it to. I will have to try that with the peaches, sounds interesting. Thank you for your lovely story!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 3, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      Oh Rosemary, I completely understand. If you ever need some bonding, come visit L.A. and I’ll make you cannoli! Hang in there, your mom would want you to. She’d probably think the peaches and wine are a good idea too!

  • Reply
    Bernard Tunno
    March 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Really enjoyed your article about a “pig sticker” kind of makes you crave ham doesn’t it:) Nope this diet isn’t affecting me. Bernie Tunno   PresidentTunno Insurance 330 758-6697 From: At Fran’s Table To: Sent: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 9:32 AM Subject: [New post] A Big “Stinger” #yiv5535803532 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5535803532 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5535803532 a.yiv5535803532primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5535803532 a.yiv5535803532primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5535803532 a.yiv5535803532primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5535803532 a.yiv5535803532primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5535803532 | Fran Tunno posted: “Today is the 23rd anniversary of my mom’s passing. She was a force of nature; making you crazy one minute, making you laugh the next. This story is proof. “Franzes!” I heard my mother’s irritated scream echoing along the metal hallways of the Queen Ma” | |

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 3, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      You can do it. Stay the diet course. Your mother would want you to. God forbid anything should happen to her lilla Bernard.

  • Reply
    Patty Tunno
    March 3, 2015 at 7:05 am

    Thinking lovingly of the “Big Stinger” and missing her today. Sending you hugs. She also had a tremendous impact on me. This story is one that I haven’t heard before, I so enjoyed it!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 3, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks Patty for reading and your wonderful comment. Mom loved you and would be thrilled to know she impacted you. She was quite the force.

  • Reply
    Donna Tunno
    March 3, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Another classic that REALLY captures your mother! She’s gone but not forgotten, and never will be forgotten as you keep her alive through your incredible memory and words!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 3, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks Donna, you would know, you knew her almost as long as I did. Thanks for reading and always commenting! You are wonderful! xo

  • Reply
    Nicol Zanzarella
    March 3, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Sending you love, ‘Franzes.’ Always. And raising a glass of wine and peaches to your mom today.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 3, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks Nicol, love you too!

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