I had an amazing birthday! With 50 or so of the most wonderful people at my home. Unbelievable Italian feast. Tons of drink. 1970s music going and the fireplace lit. Although my friend Michael was blackened as we tried to figure which way was OPEN on the damper. A great time was had by all - especially me!!!! Even those who had just planned on stopping by stayed until one o'clock in the morning.
Finally the night wore down and the last of party goers left. My feet were killing me as I slipped out of my silver Cinderella slippers and loaded the dishwasher, still resplendent in my purple gown, and put out the last of the trash. A small bag compared to the 220 pounds I left in New York.
Kitchen clean. Living room, as picked up as it was gonna be. Backyard? Meh. I figured I'd hit it tomorrow. I turned down the lights and snuggled on the sofa with my daughter and we opened the few gifts from people who brought me tokens of their esteem and affection. A no gifts policy was in effect on the invitation - but my friends are a diverse group of rebels when it comes to birthday rules. I was kind of glad.
Champagne glass in hand, tiara planted firmly on my head, and feelings of joy and love flowing through me I opened my presents. Every one was accompanied by a card with warm and genuine sentiments that meant more to me than the gifts. It was amazing. Even those who didn't bring a gift, brought a card. They ranged from the hysterical - including one wishing me well on my 11th birthday to the personal and inspirational.
Finally I got to my daughter's gift, who by the way made the most beautiful speech to me in front of all our guests, including apologizing to me for being eighteen in all it's glory while I was having such a rough time over the holidays.
When I got to her gift I was stunned by the card.
With my Gabi, it is all about the card. I don't know if it's a teen girl thing, but it is what she takes the greatest care in preparing. For my card she had taken one of the photos of me from Christmas morning and printed it in black and white. In red writing superimposed, it read...
"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes. I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But, if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." - Marilyn Monroe
And below that it said.
"This is you, Mommy. Remember that. Happy Birthday. I love you - Gabi"
It is me. I am enough. I am not usual. I am enough.
I had forgotten that this past year as I performed like a trained circus seal for an undeserving mook - trying to be things for him, that my parents and their immigrant parents slaved to overcome, so that I would NEVER have to ever hide my gifts, my talent and my intelligence to make someone feel better about themselves. And then unbelievably??? Not measuring up!!!
I had forgotten that I have a big mouth. I do. So what. And yes, it gets me into trouble, but it also makes me a lot of money. It is good. And it is me. And I am enough.
I had forgotten that I am where I am at this exact moment because God has a plan and I went with it, knowing that it would be OK in the end, because it always is. I have a raised a beautiful daughter 90% alone and stayed in show business and made a living. I am enough.
I had forgotten where I came from, who I came from, and what I have to offer based on my experiences.
My father was a child star in New York in the 1920s and 30s, who moved to Hollywood to try to make it as a "Dead End Kid" with his pal, Huntz Hall who was one of the Bowery Boys. My Dad worked all his life in show business as a singer, stand-up, opener, middler and star. He was Mr. Dynamite. He did the Ed Sullivan Show. He was written up in Variety. He moved on, at the tail end of nightclubbing, to the USO and traveled all through Southeast Asia, at the height of the Vietnam war, entertaining our troops with Martha Raye as his partner. Still, stardom eluded him.
So in 1968 he walked away.
He opened California's first halfway house for the mentally and emotionally ill. Along the way of his giving something back to society - which was my childhood, thank you very much - he forgot to get us, his five kids, our own house. So for the first few years we all lived together, Milo and Residents, in a refurbished Fraternity House a block away from the San Jose State Campus, called Milo Arms. Dad wanted to rehabilitate Vets returning from Vietnam and assist them in one day living on their own.
That wasn't what he got.
He went out to Agnew State hospital in our Chevy van that read MILO ARMS BOARD AND CARE HOME - HOW CAN WE HELP YOU? 297-3670, which was our actual home phone number and how I got to school - not that I'm scarred. When he got to the hospital he was awarded the dregs. The un-recyclables. The rejects. The ain't-never-ever-gonna-live-on-their-owns. And he loved and cared for them until the day he died.
All the while, Milo Arms was run like a nightclub. As a matter of fact he even dressed our guys in sort of uniform-type clothing. They looked like waiters. And he did a thrice daily "radio show" over the home's PA system to call everyone for their meals - with Spike Jones in the background. He made sure that everyone of them could tell and take a joke. He thought that was important for when they left.
None of them ever left. And that was OK. God had a plan. It was enough.
That's who I am. I am a child of dysfunction. I am a child of charity. I am a child that actually dispensed meds to the residents (what we called them to their faces) before it became illegal. I am the daughter of an entertainer. I am selfish. I am impatient. I make mistakes. I am out of control. I am hard to handle at times. But if you can't handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
I am enough. And if I am enough, you are enough.
Are you ready Stanley?