Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grandma and the Prince - Part 33

<--Mona at age 16

My aunt Mona was a lot like her mother, my Grandma El. They both loved men and the men loved them right back. The air around them swirled with love and romance right into old age.

I guess it wouldn't surprise you if I told you that neither woman was a stranger to whirlwind romances. Grandma El had more than her share but when it came to wild, crazy, romance-novel-worthy adventures, Mona was the undisputed champion. I was eight or nine years old when I first became aware that my very own aunt was a better source of heartstopping love stories than any Hollywood movie or sneakily-stolen-from-my-mother's-nightstand novel I had yet stumbled upon.

The year was 1958. Mona was maybe thirty at the time, a sexy, successful Manhattan career woman with a fabulous social life when she and her BFF, Justine, went down to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for a week in the sun. One night over cocktails and dinner on the beach she met a tall, blond, blue-eyed rocket scientist (you just can't make this stuff up!) who worked at (hold on!) Cape Canaveral for NASA. Mona, who was petite with dark hair and eyes, had always been a sucker for tall, blond, blue-eyed men and she fell hard for Jim. Very hard. So hard that when her vacation was over, she flew back home, quit her job, then flew back to St. Thomas where she and Jim married!

Yes! Quicker than Kim Kardashian, my aunt Mona met and married a gorgeous, brilliant scientist she barely knew. She waved goodbye to all of us and moved to Cocoa Beach to be a NASA wife. It was the most drop dead romantic thing my little girl heart had ever fluttered over. I loved her postcards from Cocoa Beach. Her newsy letters filled with talk of astronauts and rocket launches, all of which were a far cry from anything going on back home in Queens. Even better, we had an open invitation to visit any time we wanted. I mean, could it get any more perfect than that?

<--Mona at 40 with my mother

That was in June. Cut to Labor Day weekend when a white Chevy with Florida plates screeched to a stop in front of our house and my aunt Mona tumbled out in a flood of tears and empty paper coffee cups.

It was over. The romance. The fantasy. The marriage. O. V. E. R. Ninety days from start to finish. I remember her sitting on the foot stool in my parents' living room, spilling a story I was probably still too young to understand, then toppling over to the floor in a dead faint from a combination of exhaustion and high emotion.

Over the years I heard two versions of the story of her marriage and to this day I'm not sure either one is the true story. One version said Jim slapped her in the face during an argument and she took the car keys and walked out, never to return. The other version said he surprised her when he said he didn't want children and she took the car keys and walked out. Which one is the real deal? Your guess is as good as mine. Mona never remarried.

The funny thing, though, is they stayed in touch through the years until Jim (who never remarried either) died in the late 1980s. They even rendezvoused a few times in St. Thomas over the decades. Was it love? Friendship? Red-hot chemistry that defied reason? Oh, how I wish I knew.

I'm a romance writer. Happy endings are in my blood. In a way maybe Mona and Jim managed to create one for themselves after all, one that didn't look the way I had expected it to. I hope so.

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton and if you'd like to win a signed copy of one of my books, just leave a comment and I'll announce 5 winners next month! Thanks for reading.


marybelle said...

Thank you for Part 33. I would absolutely love a signed copy of one of your books.


traveler said...

Your true life stories are always captivating and leave me spellbound and wanting more. Wonderful. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

petite said...

When I read your amazing family stories they transport me to another era and make life fascinating and better than fiction. Enthralling is the best word for your ability to capture the feelings and people. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

Kathleen O said...

This sure was the plot for many a romance books.. Aunt Mona sure was a great heroine, I am sure there was more to the story, but only the two people involved will ever know that's for sure... Passion always run high on a vaction.. I know from experince.. Thanks for sharing Mona'a story..

Barbara E. said...

What a great story. Sometimes family can have the most fascinating stories, even better than fiction. I had a sister-in-law who's childhood life was just like a soap opera, it was amazing to me. Mother committed to a mental health facility when she was born, raised by several foster families, met several sisters after she was grown, finally met her mother as an adult, etc.

Barbed1951 at aol dot com

Renee said...

Wow! And they say truth is stranger than fiction. I love your story. I think families can be the inspiration to what we write!

Chrisbails said...

Great family story. Your aunt Mona sounds like my aunt Sharon. She loved men also and still does. She had a couple of those quick marriage and then learned they were jerks. Would love to win and read one of your books. You are a new author for me and always looking for new books and authors to check out. Thanks for the giveaway.

Jeanne M said...

Barbara -

Your Aunt's story took me all the back to the 1966 and the summer after I graduated from High S chool when I thought I'd met the man of my dreams. In September I left for college in Washington, DC but got to see him whenever I went back home, the same town where he was a Senior at a local college.

Then the phone calls started coming when he'd had to much to drink telling me how much he missed me and he had just gotten back from a date with "fill in the blank"! Of course a different girl each time.

Of course he kept calling begging me to forgive him. I did until I finally realizeed that he just wasn't MY knight in shinning armor! The next Fall I moved across the country to finish college deciding I needed a lot of miles between us to not make the mistake of believing him "just one more time".

February 7th I celebrate my 42nd Anniversary with the love of my life who has never made me question his fidelity and love! I must admit though that every once in a while I wonder how my old love made out with his life - hopefully he learned what "true" love is all about!


Na said...

Wow, what a whirlwind of a story. To think that it's a real life story too. I am glad though that even though the fantasy was over they still had the reality of a long-standing friendship. That is something to take from it. I believe in second chances and though I don't have a love story of my mind I hope when I do it'll be a wonderful one.


Pat Cochran said...

Love this story about your Aunt Mona and Jim
from NASA! Can only say that it seems that
they were meant to be together, but apart!

Pat Cochran

CrystalGB said...

Your aunt Mona sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing her story with us.

Di said...

This story about your aunt made me think about my aunt (my father's older sister). She worked for Elizabeth Arden out of NYC and always seemed very glamorous to me. When I was little she had a boyfriend, I remember going to his house; his aunt lived with him & she liked me - she gave me a small gold wristwatch. They never did get married - I don't know why - my father once said he thought they would & he didn't know why they didn't.
sallans d at yahoo dot com

host said...

It often seems like the real life stories are even more dramatic and full of surprises then those described in books :)
Thanks for sharing your family history with us, I enjoy your stories.

franalokas (at) yahoo (dot) com

Kaelee said...

Oh that's a great story. I just love your real life stories. I 'm glad I found this post even if it is a few days late.

Michele L. said...

Hi Barbara,

It is funny how family drama can provide inspiration for a story. I always enjoy reading your blogs. The insight into your family background is intriguing and exciting. Your aunt sure is pretty and looks like a movie star too! Ah romance...