So it turns out my mom was a total scrapper back in the day, which is a brand new factoid I just learned on her most recent visit here.
Francine might look like a dried-out, cleaned-up Amy Winehouse (R.I.P.) in this 1964 prom picture from her days in foster care on Long Island, but apparently, at 5"2 and 120 lbs, my mom was prone to street brawling in the Bronx.
This subject came up while the two of us were engaged in our most favorite activity: sitting around on a living room couch, drinking vodka gimlets, and coloring in our adult coloring books. Somehow the conversation turned to physical fighting.
"I've never been in a physical fight," I told my mom, expecting to have her company in lifelong peace-keeping. "Oh, I've been in PLENTY," she offered, casually plucking a blue glitter pen from the box on the coffee table and filling in the petals of a delicate flower.
"You have?" I asked incredulously.
"Of course I have!" she exclaimed, glancing up from the paper with a look in her piercing green eyes that implied I had the IQ of a grapefruit. "I was an orphan in the South Bronx! I've been in some really nasty physical altercations, with both boys and girls." She continued filling in the flower's stem.
I couldn't help but detect a note of pride creeping into her voice. Of course you have, mom. Of course you have.
"Did you win?" I asked (whatever "winning" meant).
"Yes. Every time. I remember once I got into a big fist fight with a boy in my after-school daycare program. He said his dad was a police officer and would arrest me when he came to pick him up. So I spent the rest of the afternoon afraid I was going to jail for beating up this kid. When his dad showed up and found out his son got beat up by a girl, he just shook his head and looked at him like, really?! You gotta be joking."
There were a couple of amazing things about this story. The first is that I'd never known before that my mom was a street brawler. The second is that by looking at her, you would never guess this was possible. It's hard to imagine the semi-frail, very petite 71 year-old woman who does Tai Chi on my deck in pink Crocs and brings Chardonnay to a barbeque in a plastic salad dressing shaker beating up boys like she was Leonardo DiCaprio in Gangs of New York.
But that's Francine for ya, and it's totally awesome. My mom was a street scrapper, and my eyes are misting over just thinking about it.
I'm proud of you, Mom. Proud of ya.