I don’t know what it is about Lucille Ball that reminds me of my mother. Maybe it’s her chin and lips, her short hair or the way she exuded glamor, even if she was in the supermarket. One time, I told my mother she reminded me of Lucy, and she looked at me like my head exploded. And the fact my mother was Cuban – her accent was so much like Desi Arnaz’ and the rest of my family – I thought he was a distant relative.
When my mother was nineteen, she married an older man, had a son, and was quickly divorced. This was back in Havana, Cuba. Every photo of her ex-husband was banished, except one family group gathering that included my mother, her brother, his wife, my abuela and my half brother when he was a little boy. Right at the edge of the picture is a be-headed man, whose face was ripped off in the shape of someone’s mouth – like someone took one big bite of him, chewed him up, and allowed him to disappear by act of mastication and digestion. Only his surname remained through legal documents, since my brother still held his last name – until my mom moved to New York, met my dad – and had me. Then it was changed.
I always used to fantasize that my half brother’s real dad was Desi Arnaz. In his old photos, he looked like little Ricky and the real little Desi. As a teenager and man in his twenties, he so reminded me of Desi Arnaz, Jr. that I felt, deep down in my soul, that he was love child of my mom and the king of Babbaloo. One time, I asked my mother if she ever met Arnaz, trying to get a hint about the first husband she never, ever wanted to talk about. She said Arnaz left for Hollywood when she was a little girl, so she never did. There went my theory.
But I still live the fantasy. It just feels like the whole Lucy universe swirled around my mom and her image. From looks, spirit and son…the Ball/Arnaz vibe moves on.
Just for context – this is my stunning, gorgeous mother below. Real ‘Mad Men’ days.