Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do You Want to Know a Secret (part 2 - by Margaret Ullrich)

The week before Easter, we were in Nadia’s bedroom. That room was a shrine to all things holy. The walls were plastered with pictures of John, Paul, George, Ringo, angels, saints, Mary and Jesus. If we'd had incense and candles we could have registered it as a church. While we listened to the Beatles, Nadia ironed my hair and chattered. “This is so-o-o-o cool! They’re comin’ ta Queens! If they was goin’ ta Madison Square Garden, I’d never get ta see Paul.”

Corona was a stop on the IRT train which ran from Flushing, Queens to Times Square in Manhattan. I had ridden it dozens of times when I went shopping in Manhattan with my Ma. So I told Nadia, “Manhattan’s not so far away. Next time you leave my house, just stay on the train to the end of the line and you’ll be there.”

Nadia sighed. Uncle Des and Aunt Betty had simple needs. Uncle Des owned a small deli in Corona. He worked long hours, six days a week and wanted to sleep whenever he could. Aunt Betty was happy to spend her days visiting with neighbours and relatives. Except for an occasional big event movie, Nadia’s entire world consisted of what she could see in Corona. “Yeah, well, Mom don't want me ta go outta Queens. So, ya got the money or what?”
“I’m working on it.”
“Oh fer cryin’ out loud. Just ask yer Pop!”

Nadia thought my Pop could be reasonable, like her Dad. Pop ran a tighter financial household than Uncle Des did. If it wasn’t up there with warm clothes, oil for the furnace, food and water, Pop didn’t want to hear about it. Pop thought the radio and the weekly Ed Sullivan show gave us all the musical exposure we needed. I tried to explain. “Pop thinks hearing the Beatles on the radio is enough.”

As soon as she heard the sacred name, Nadia was off again. “Madonna! I’m gonna see Paul! Live! In person! I gotta see him! And ya gotta see George! We’re gonna marry them!!”
I screamed. “Watch it! You burned my ear!”
“Sorry.” Nadia stopped to check if there was any permanent damage. When she saw I wasn’t actually on fire she pressed on, all the while trying to think of a way for me to get the money. Nadia liked History, at least the gory parts. By the time we’d heard one side of the album, she had a plan. “Hey! Yer still a British wha-cha-ma-call-it, right?”

As far as Uncle Sam was concerned, I had been a guest in America since I was three months old. Pop thought that filling out an alien registration card, which could be mailed postage-free every January, was a better bargain than paying ten dollars to make me an American citizen. I was a girl without a country. Since I didn’t have my papers in order, Pop could also threatened to send me back to Malta whenever I acted too American. Uncle Des thought Pop was being cheap. But, then again, what else was new.

“A British subject. Why?”
“Tell yer Pop the Queen said all British subjects hafta see the Beatles. An’ if ya don’t, she’ll chop yer head off.”
“My head . . . off.”
“Yeah. An’ put it on a stick. They do that, ya know.”
“Not anymore.”
“Ya sure?”
“Oh, yeah.” My neck was so sore, I wished the Queen would chop my head off. “Are you done yet?”

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