Those dreaded words, “My mother wants to meet you,” rang in
my ears. Dodi was not thrilled that her son, Scott, was dating a
divorced woman with two small boys. I hadn’t even met her yet
and already I was in the dog house.
Naturally, I was extremely nervous meeting her. “It’s nice to
meet you, Anne. Welcome to our home,” she said formally.
Scott quickly ushered me into the living room where a very tan,
French maid laughed hysterically, as she served shrimp.
Her sun bleached, blonde, hair was piled high in a beehive. Her maid cap sat in the middle of
the hive. I thought they must be very wealthy to have a maid. When the maid saw us enter,
she did a curtsy, and then ran to hug Scott. Next, she curtsied in front of me, smiling. I did a
curtsy back. She hugged me close. “I have been waiting to meet you!” she said with a big
smile. I liked her immediately. My husband introduced me to his infamous, Aunt Ziza.
During dinner, I learned that the sisters were the best of friends and the worst of friends.
Sibling Rivalry was alive and well in their relationship. They were the ultimate beach babes.
They arrived at the beach after breakfast and stayed until dinner. They both wore bikinis in
their seventies and worshiped the sun every summer. Their gingerbread-brown tan lasted
throughout the year. As their families grew, the beach chair count also rose. A huge circle
of multi-colored chairs staked out their area on Sea Isle City beach.
At our wedding reception, Ziza held my hands tight and leaned in close. “Anne, I’m
dying. I may only have a few months left,” she whispered. We both had tears in our eyes. “I
don’t want a big funeral. Just remember the good times we had at the beach and over the
years. Promise me there will be no tears. I love you guys.”
She repeated those exact words every time we saw her for the next thirty-eight years!
Scott loved Ziza. He sought refuge at her house during his teenage years when he and Dodi
battled. She was the cool aunt. After we were married, we announced that I was pregnant at
her shore cottage. She immediately dressed a small table in her dining area with a flowing
white table cloth, candles and a vase with a single white rose and served us a seasoned,
steamed lobster dinner. She made such a fuss, smiling, patting my belly and hugging us both.
I’ll never forget that. I still feel tears from that memory.
Dodi and Ziza were stuck in the sibling rivalry stage. The daily competition included:
The best macaroni and cheese recipe, the darkest tan, the funniest husband, best bathing suit,
smartest, best dressed, nicest jewelry, firmest thighs, and on and on.
Over the years, there was an ongoing beauty contest between the sisters. In the fashion
world, Ziza out shined her. Then again, Ziza could have worn a black trash bag, added a belt
and heels and looked stunning. She had flair. There really was no reason for a competition.
They were both stunning women, but one had to be the most stunning.
Ziza was the peace keeper. Dodi held grudges for years. Scott actually put up a Dodi’s Dog
House plaque at Ziza’s cottage. Each pup had one of our names hanging on the front fence.
We rotated time in the doghouse, based on Dodi’s moods. I spent so much time in there, I
should have gotten my own room.
When Dodi decided her house would be sugar-free for her grandchildren, Ziza naturally
bought a three-foot, bright yellow, bubble gum machine for the front porch of her little,
yellow seaside cottage. Our kids arrived with a jar of coins and walked around with purple,
green, and orange lips the entire visit.
At my daughter’s sixth birthday party, she initiated a food fight in the family room with the
birthday cake. The more cake that flew, the louder the laughter rose. Dodi was appalled and
At my oldest daughter, Erika’s, wedding; she catapulted over twenty single women to catch
the bouquet. She literally flew over the crowd, like Michael Jordan dunking a basketball.
She was seventy-four at the time. She was coy and flirted with my son’s shy friend, as he slid
the garter up her leg. He blushed bright red. She did not.
She flipped her leg in the air, with unabashed charm and waved to the crowd.. It was an
academy award performance! She was thrilled that the audience was enjoying the show.
She pulled me aside that day too, “Anne, I’m dying. I may have only a few months
left,” she whispered. “Ziza,” I complained, “Not the dying story today. It’s a happy day. Let’s
celebrate.” She conceded, but added, “Promise me there will be no tears. I love you guys.”
I promised no tears and lead her to the dance floor.
When we got the call that Ziza passed away in hospice, it was surreal. All the times she told
me she was dying came flooding back. “No tears,” I’d promised.
She was surrounded by her family and comfortable. I just couldn’t believe it was real this
time. I broke my promise and sobbed, remembering the good times, as she asked.
I’m sure Dodi, has set up a beach chair for her in Heaven. There will be a gaudy flowered
chair for Ziza, while Dodi rests on the classy, striped chair.
I’m sure the competition will continue. I imagine my mother-in-law reminiscing about the
times at the beach and Ziza laughing; both so happy to be reunited.
Dodi will eventually mention that her bikini always fit better than Ziza’s.
Ziza will mention the peach toga gown that Dodi wore to a wedding was almost as beautiful as
the black, chiffon, gown that she wore.
Ziza will mention the Dog House and giggle because Dodi never knew it existed.
Dodi will insist that St Peter made a bigger fuss over her.
They’ll laugh and hug before it starts all over again…and again…and again.
Her sign came just a few days after she passed. Scott was serving Communion at mass
when the choir director announced the hymn, Lord You Have Come to the Seashore. We’ve
only heard this song four times in our lives. It was played at the funerals of Scott’s sister, Kim,
Dodi and her husband, Pop, and now for Ziza. The chorus is very fitting for this beach loving
Oh Lord with your eyes set upon me
Gently smiling, you have spoken my name
All I longed for I have found by the water
At your side, I will seek other shores
If there are beaches in Heaven, we’ll know where to find Ziza. She’ll be right next Dodi,
sunning in her beach chair. She has found other shores.
Previously published in Purple Clover Magazine