The Summer of 1969: Mom’s Solace for My Broken Heart

By Richard Mabey Jr.


Our true-life story so far: It is now the middle of July of 1969. I have begun taking swimming lessons at the Paterson YMCA. My swimming instructor, Lisa Ann, is a very pretty girl who had just completed her freshman year at Paterson State College. Lisa Ann is very kind to me. I have become quite smitten with her. I have just met Robbie, Lisa Ann’s boyfriend. He is crude, rude and obnoxious to Lisa Ann. The two of them have just left the indoor swimming pool area and I sit alone on the old, wooden bench beside the pool.  I go outside the Paterson YMCA, to find my mom waiting for me in her old Ford Country Squire station wagon.


I wiped the tears from my cheeks. Walked out of the men’s locker room. Walked down the hallway to the big front door of the Paterson YMCA. Outside I looked to the parking lot. There was our 1962 Ford Country Squire family station wagon. Mom was there, waiting for me. I opened the door to the old family station wagon, to my surprise, my sister Patti was not with Mom.


“Hi Mom,” I said to my mother.


“Hi Richie, how was your swimming lesson,” Mom asked.


“Not that great, Mom. Where’s Patti?” I asked my mom.


“She decided to stay with Aunt Helen. They’re baking cookies,” Mom told me.


Aunt Helen was not really my aunt. She was my mom’s first cousin, who lived in Upstate New York with her sister, Eleanor. From time to time, Aunt Helen would come to visit us for a week or two. Since my maternal grandmother was the youngest of eleven children and my mom was the youngest of nine children, Mom had first cousins who were old enough to be her mother. Aunt Helen was a sweet, kind widow who was now in her late 60’s.


“Oh, that’s nice,” I replied to my mom.


A quiet, solemn silence fell between my mom and I as Mom pulled out of the parking lot of the Paterson YMCA. As we pulled out from the towering building, I did my best to hold back my tears. I was still heartbroken over how Lisa Ann’s boyfriend had so meanly treated her.


“Richie, you okay?” Mom asked me.


I did my best to hold back my tears. “Not really,” I confided in my mom.


“Are you having a hard time with your swimming lessons?” Mom asked me.


“No, that’s not it at all,” I replied.


Despite all my efforts to hold back my tears, I could feel the gentle flow of heartbreak seeping down my cheeks.


“Richie, you’re crying! What’s wrong?” Mom asked me.


We were now on Route 46, driving through Totowa. We had just passed the big Two Guys department store.


“Lisa Ann, my swimming teacher, she has this boyfriend and….” I began wiping the tears from my face with my handkerchief.


“I know she has a boyfriend. Lisa Ann is Betty Tompkins’ niece. Lisa Ann Maguire lives up there on the hill on Elm Street, with her mom and dad. She’s got five or six brothers and sisters,” Mom recited to me as if she were reading a biography.


For one split second, it all seemed unreal. Mom knew of Lisa Ann. Suddenly, Lisa Ann’s magical mystique seemed to evaporate. Lisa Ann lived in Lincoln Park. Then, it dawned on me! Her brother, Tommy Maguire, was in scouts a few years ago. He was a year younger than me. He had dropped out of scouts a couple of years ago. Then it dawned on me. Lincoln Park, everyone’s related or knows each other.


“Well, you see Mom, Lisa Ann has this boyfriend and…” I confided in Mom.


“And he doesn’t treat her very well. I know. Betty Tompkins told me all about it. Betty’s brother, Tom wants her to break up with him. But Betty says it’s like this boyfriend has some kind of hold on Lisa Ann,” Mom continued to tell me as if she had just read a newspaper article about it all.


My head was swirling. Lisa Ann was about three years older than me. I knew, deep down, when I first saw her that she looked familiar. I suddenly remembered. I saw Lisa Ann in Moe’s Sweet Shop about a year ago, when I went in to buy a comic book. We were now in Wayne on Route 46. We had just passed the hot dog place by the inspection station. We would soon be home.


“Mom, maybe we could keep all this just between us?” I asked my mom.


“Of course. Look, Richie, don’t be sad. Lisa Ann’s father has her almost talked into breaking up with that mean boy,” Mom said to me.


Mom’s words comforted me. Perhaps there was hope that Lisa Ann would actually break up with that scoundrel. And, maybe, just maybe, Lisa Ann would actually come to one of the church’s ice cream socials with me. A part of me knew it was all “pie in the sky” dreaming. But a part of me thought, “it just might happen.”


To be continued.


Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at Please place the wording “My Life Weekly” in the subject line.

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