When I was about seven, my alleged assault on cousin Floyd, with the miniature baseball bat, must have been forgotten, or at least, set to rest. I would not be sent to Juvenile Hall. There were grander plans in the works for my immediate future. And, face it, the boy suffered from nothing more than a goose egg on this forehead and a blow to his pride.
Well, what did the family have planned for me that was important enough to forgive using my cousin’s head for batting practice.
Valentine and Marianna Jendrzejczak were about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. For this monumental occasion the family was pulling out all the stops. It would show Milwaukee ‘s Polish South Side that they had retained their lofty upper-class satus. Granted, their son, the youngest, my father, destined for the clergy, had married and married down in their eyes. And if that wasn’t enough, he then fathered a pint-sized delinquent.
I was this blond, dimpled granddaughter with a Shirley Temple air that they needed, at least for the time being. Their anniversary scenario called for a little princess to play the bride , recreating a romantic fairy tale wedding, walking down the seemingly endless aisle of the famous St. Joseph’s Basilica.
My cousin, Loretta, a bit younger then myself, might have been their first choice, if it were not improper for her to be paired with her brother, the groom. And there was the added problem that Loretta never smiled. Never. She was the leading contender for the title of “Little Miss Sour Puss.” Even her grandmother, the Battle Axe, had to agree.
So it was Charlene, the pint-sized delinquent on Floyd’s arm recreating the romanticized, imaginary wedding day of Valentine and Marianna, once aristocracy in Poland “pan” and “pani” lording over the peasantry.
Valentine would finally be ripped out of his chair for the occasion, and Marianna in all her buxom glory would regain her Old County position of royalty. So what they were living in a democratic republic where the honored Jendrzejczak name signaled nothing more than a collection on Polack greenhorns.