My mother’s name was Marilyn. Marilyn Deluca. Her mother’s name was Josephine (MomMom, to me) and my grandfather’s name was Bill (or PopPop). They were both full-blooded Italians who raised their family in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
My mom had two sisters: Carol was the oldest and Judith was the youngest. MomMom and PopPop worked hard, loved dachshunds and each owned a Pinto (yes, the car)—one was ugly yellow and the other ugly green. There was a piano downstairs and MomMom could play pretty well, actually, but she was always busy movin’, workin’ and cookin’.
My father was playing in a band when my parents met. I was born when my mother was 18, and she had sung in high school just a couple times. I think my Dad’s mother wore black to their wedding since his parents were just a hair conservative. My mom’s parents seemed a little more loose, though I’m sure there were some stressful times in that little house with one bathroom.
When we moved to St. Thomas in the USVI, my mother decided she was gonna become a rock star. My father found the band dudes: Donnie Edwards and a drummer with long curly locks named Chipper (ironic?). They started playing local clubs like Fat City in ‘77-’78 on that little island in the Caribbean. Music was always playing in the house, and when my mom wasn’t waiting tables, I remember she used to put me to bed singing the Eagles’ tune “Desperado.”
My Dad never really sang much, he just loved great instrumentalists like Jackson Brown’s band and The Grateful Dead (I sound like a broken record to some of you, I’m sure), and my mom was into Heart, Blondie and The Police. Later on, they both dug Alice in Chains and Lenny Kravitz after my brother Gavan and I discovered them on MTV. But, my mom did throw one of my Ozzy tapes in the trash. Yes, that really happened.
My parents played in a band most weekends—they worked all the time. When we moved to this area, they formed a hip band right away called “Holly Hilton and the Rockets.” My mom was pretty cocky up there. She would eyeball people and talk to the crowd. Everyone loved my mom. She also waited tables and people loved her rap while she was working. My mom WAS the party. See? I can’t help who I am. None of us can. We are a product of our family.
One time I had a party when my parents went to play in Augusta. They came home and the place was trashed. My mom slapped me in the face, and I got a job the next day bussin’ tables at The Little Venice on Hilton Head Island. She was tough, man. She never sugar-coated anything she said.
I became closer to my mom right before she was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1998. Sometimes, I would drive over to her house and we would just hang out or she would cut my hair before she had to go to work. My parents were hippies in St. Thomas and my dad still is.
One memory that sticks out in my mind is an instance when we performed somewhere on Hilton Head around 1995. We were up on stage, eyes glazed, playing a Grateful Dead tune, I’m sure. People dug the band we had back then, but we were a bit introverted, as far as performers go.
My mom came in and sang a song with us that night. The crowd became electric—jumping up and hooting. She blew us off the stage. It was a whole different kind of connection to a crowd. In a small bar, she ruled.
Lesson learned. She passed away a few years later.
Thanks for wakin’ me up, Mom.
Written by Jevon Daly.