More Fun with Claudine

When my mother came to America from Belgium, her name was Fadga, pronounced “Fella” (yeah, and her mother’s name was “Bella.”) Anyone could understand that the first thing she might do would be to change her name to something more…pretty. She chose “Claudine”, which she pronounced, with her lovely and strong accent, CLOWdine (like GLOW). Sort of softer, but close to that.

She couldn’t pronounce her “ths” so “tooth” would come out like “toot.” She considered anything North of the Throg’s Neck Bridge “New Hampshire.” When she got full in a restaurant she would unhook her bra and pull it out through her sleeve and stick it in her pocketbook. She took about 6 sets, one at a time, of little salt and pepper shakers from The Jolly Fisherman where I had my first Shirley Temple and duck la orange. They appeared during Passover and Thanksgiving, my mother’s little “winks” plunked down along sections of the dining room table.

So, for those of you unaware of what happens in manic depression, now called “bipolar disorder,” there are EXTREME ups and EXTREME downs. When you live with someone who lives on these opposite poles, and rarely in the middle, you learn to anticipate these very dramatic shifts. The ups were MUCH more amusing than the downs, both very disconcerting in their own right, but, they brought her happiness, however fleeting.

My mother would either be in bed for days at a time with the shades drawn, or up, painting pretty terrible paintings, going on shopping binges or dreaming up senseless business ideas that never went anywhere. She’d come home from these shopping jaunts with five of the same shirt in different colors, boxes of shoes, and one time, a life-sized stuffed clown for me. I was 16, and everyone hates a clown.

My mother, who was absolutely stunning, became more “adorable” as she got older. She had a cute little 5’5 body and wore mostly velour sweatsuits or tennis dresses. She never went out without lipstick. She didn’t cook much so when it was just the two of us after my parents got divorced we would go to this place that had her favorite dessert–a snowball–chocolate ice cream bathed in chocolate sauce and rolled in coconut. She would start out spooning rather demurely and then duel with my spoon over the last drop. She was incredibly generous with me, never really said no to anything I asked for.

Like her, I love my restaurant time with my daughter even if it is just an excuse not to have to think of something to cook. Oh, and I just “borrowed” two of what my daughter calls “dipper spoons” from a Chinese chain’s wonton soup. 4 more to go for a set.



  1. I never get tired of reading…I hope you never get tired of writing

  2. Lovely!!! Write more, more, more!!!

  3. I'm loving reading these posts, Gayle. And – am so very happy to have actually met your mother. I remember a lot of saidpaintings stuffed in a closet – whatever becameof them?

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