Disclaimer: None of the characters that Roseanne fans recognize belong to this author at all, they all belong to Roseanne and Carsey-Werner.
It's been eight years since the series ended and just what are the Conners, Harrises, and Healys been up to? Let's check it out and see in this re-union...enjoy!
Lanford Days Again
1: Unpacking Discoveries
I haul the last box up to the third floor of my new condo five miles from 714 Delaware Street where I used to live and where my daughter Darlene now lives with her husband David and their three kids.
Entering the quiet one bedroom, I smile as I look around the bright, cheerful place. It's my first truly bold move since my beloved husband Dan died nine years ago and now my three kids...Becky, Darlene, and DJ have grown.
Now that it's just me, this condo is all I need to be happy. I put the box down and begin to unpack. There are lots of little treasures. Among one of the first boxes I open are hundred of photos of me and my younger sister, Jackie. Jackie lives close by here right in Lanford and we have always been close.
We both have the same straight dark hair and dark brown eyes. Until recently, I was much heavier than Jackie, who used to be very skinny. But she's finally put on some weight and isn't as nervous as she used to be. She's not exactly fat like me, but she's gotten heftier with middle age, especially in her butt, legs, stomach, face, and neck. I still think she's cute. She's also still as sensitive as the girl who couldn't tolerate sleeping over a pea.
I now am growing some gray hairs in my dark now long hair. Both Jackie and I have more wrinkles in as late middle ages creeps upon us.
We opened the Lunch Box diner thirteen years ago and since then, it has expanded and three years ago, we added an offspring, the Dinner Pail. It's now become a chain in the Midwest, especially in Illinois where we live.
I smile thinking how we started out...it was actually Jackie's idea; she is very creative and has lots of wacky ideas, many that actually work. You'll meet my sister later and know what I mean. Jackie, our other friend Nancy Bartlett, our mom, Bev, and I started off with a small diner hauling loose meat and making the burgers and other food ourselves and running the place ourselves. Leon Carp joined us and Mom retired, but we kept the place running and word got out and it became a booming business and we opened up more diners.
Now I write the ads, menus, and other business dealings regarding our business and Jackie does the artwork...designing the ads, the menus, and even design our trademark sign for both the Lunch Box and Dinner Pail business. She also has done a lot of the interior layout of the diners. Mom says she's finally using her head there. Mom has often been a case herself...you meet her later also, especially with the holidays coming up.
My cell phone rings and I jolt and fall over blurting out, "Life and Stuff" before I pick it up and see that it's Darlene.
"Hey, Mom, feel like joining us for last minute shopping?" Darlene asks.
"Sure..." I say. I can hear squabbling in the background, then a burp, which is not surprising, considering that Darlene and David have their hands full with three kids...Harris, who's now seven, almost eight, her brother, Danny, who's six, and their one-year-old daughter, Sara. They also own and run several comics and magazines. Darlene writes up the articles and storylines while David does the drawings and artwork. "What time's good for you?" I ask.
"Maybe around three at the mall entrance by Bed Bath and Beyond?" Darlene suggests. "Hey...Danny...Harris...quit tossing cheerios around the kitchen..." she tells her kids. "I got enough to do without refereeing a cheerios game." She comes back to me as I hear Harris squawk, "Danny did it first..."
"Hey, have you talked to DJ lately?" Darlene asks me.
"Not lately," I say. "Last time we talked two weeks ago, he said he had something to announce with him and Lian." Lian is DJ's longtime lover and they are having a baby in March.
"He'll probably call soon," Darlene tells me. "He says he and Lian are coming from Elgin and I invited them to stay at my house over Christmas...looks like he got another break in the photography."
"Remember when he used to go around with the camera and he wanted to film Harris' birth?" I say and we both laugh at the memory.
"Yeah, I remember...and he missed it since Harris came so early." I'll never forget Harris's premature birth. We all had been so frightened that she wouldn't make it...but by a graceful miracle, she did and is now a healthy little girl.
"I used to think DJ would be the next Steven Speilburg and be a film director," I add. "Look like Becky's in the field instead."
"I talked to Becky two nights ago," Darlene tells me. "Her latest film project is doing well. And she and Alicia are also coming for the holidays." Becky is divorced and has a daughter, Alicia, who is almost seven. It's a very good thing she went back and finished college and now has a good career since she is Alicia's sole support. "I know the kids will be happy to see Alicia again." I tell her a bit about the unpacking and about the pictures of Jackie and me. We laugh at several memories.
"That's Jackie, all right..." Darlene adds as we laugh again. "Hey, she says she and Andy are meeting us too, that all right?"
"Sure..." I say. Andy is Jackie's ten-year-old son. Jackie was married briefly, one year, but that marriage didn't work out and she and her ex, Fred split up and she's a single mom to Andy. Darlene and I finalize plans and hang up.
My alarm bleeps and I reach over with my fist and punch it off. I wish I could sleep in more, but I have five million things to do with Christmas almost here and I promised Roseanne and Darlene I'd meet them at the mall later on today and promised Andy I'd put up the holiday tree with him tonight. I rub my eyes for a long minute, trying to wake up.
"Mommmmmm..." I hear Andy's voice from somewhere in the kitchen.
"Mmmmmm..." is all I can manage as I roll out of bed and end up landing on the floor in a heap with my blanket coiled around my waist and leg. I slowly crawl up to a hopefully vertical position and pull the blanket off me and sleepily shuffle into the bathroom. My brown eyes are bleary with sleep and my dark hair is in fifty million directions. I comb it absently and gaze at the hair going into its chin-length place, then brush my teeth. I came more awake as I splash water over my face. Then I go back to my room and get dressed.
I look around and smile softly and ruefully remembering how I'd gotten this house that I now own and live in. I'd lived in an apartment before, then moved in with a boyfriend. The boyfriend...he'd been abusive and I'd left him with Roseanne's help and moved in with her and Dan and their three then-kids. It was a painful time in my life and I am still grateful to Roseanne and Dan for their support. Their caring helped me heal. I try to push that painful memory from my mind and remember how I'd then lived with Mom for about two months. Mom...she used to really drive me batty since we are actually alike in many ways.
I laugh a little at my own foible of letting Mom be the one to wake me up in the mornings when we had to go to work at the then-fledgiling Lunch Box. Boy, did she ever! She'd do everything she could to get up my back and even trickle cold water over me and used to talk to me like a kid. It used to drive me so bonkers that I always whined and complained and probably drove her crazy also. I guess I knew I needed to grow up then, but didn't want to admit it.
Mom actually did do me a favor then by not waking me up one morning. At the time, however, I'd been furious, had overslept, and run into the Lunch Box late and whined and complained to Mom. I cringe now at how foolish I must have sounded to both her and Dan, who'd been attempting to unload this house that a so-called friend had conned him into borrowing. I needed to get out on my own again, so I bought the house. Mom loaned me the down payment and I paid her back three months later and moved in here...and have been here ever since. Andy has always lived here; he was born a year after I moved in. I think I needed Mom's butt-kick there, even though I didn't realize it at the time.
Over the years, Roseanne and I have gotten closer to Mom and now understand her better. Mom doesn't drive me as batty as she used to and she and Roseanne don't bicker as much as they once did. We still have our moments, but it's better now. We don't dread holidays with her as much as we once did.
We all had growing to do and we did it. Looking back, I realize that we used to be much less mature and more impulsive and short-sighted, only seeing that moment in time. Now all three of us have learned to step back and have longer vision and see the big picture. It was hard at times, but we did. And life certainly did make us stronger.
Andy is sitting at the kitchen table eating waffles as I enter. "Morning, sweetie..." I say, dropping kiss on his head.
"Hi, Mom...hey, are we going shopping with Aunt Roseanne and the others today?" he asked, pouring more honey over his waffles.
"We sure are," I make a plate of waffles for myself and join him at the table, where we eat in contented silence for a while. If there is the brightest thing in my life besides Roseanne and the business, it's my dear son, Andy. I look over at him from time to time. He has my dark hair and same almond shape of eyes as I do, while he has Fred's fair complexion and blue eyes. I'm so lucky to have my son; he's a wonderful boy and is very sweet. With all my life's screwups and blunders, Andy's been the positive in all this.
David and I manage to haul all three of our kids in the car with moderate squabbling...the usual who gets which window in the back and all and putting Sara in her car seat. Twice, Danny drops his boot in the snow and David and I dig out out each time, then we're on our way.
"Mom, can we got back and get Ralph?" Harris asks. Ralph is Harris' rubber frog that she adores and takes almost everywhere with her.
"No, I'm sure he could use come quiet time from the madness," I tell her. She groans a bit, then she and Danny play tick-tac-toe with the back of the car seat and some bits of scrap paper David and I have discarded and never got around to getting out of the car. I suppose we'll clean out the car when it needs it, which will probably be in ten years or when Sara's ready for college.
The parking lot, not surprisingly, is a zoo with the holidays on us. It takes us about twenty minutes to find a space and it's barely a space. We make it to Bed Bath and Beyond where Mom, Aunt Jackie, and Andy are. They wave us over and we meet and talk a mile a minute. The kids peer at the holiday decorations and talk amongst themselves while we adults walk in tow, talking.
Lanford Mall has grown in eight years. "This used to be a tiny thing back when Becky, DJ and I were kids," I say.
"It's come a long way since I worked at their Rodbell's in our lean years," Mom laughs. How well we remember that stint in our starvation days. "Jackie, remember when you'd come in for coffee the time you were a cop?" Aunt Jackie was a cop for a year long ago when we were kids until she injured her back in an arrest.
"Yeah..." Jackie nods. "You were wound up at leaving Dan in charge of the house and needed me to teach you how to bend once in a while and be weak like I used to be."
"Teeeeeach meeeee!" Mom mock-wheedles and we all laugh again.
"Remember how I tried to wheedle your credit card out of you, Jacks and had that nutty scheme of buying a stereo on sale and returning it full price?" I ask.
"Yeah, I remember. There I was in my uniform," Jackie adds. "I say, That'll illegal and you say, How do you know? with total innocence and big eyes and me feeling like a clown."
"You think I'm wearing a clown suit?" I quote her response exactly. I remember Jackie asking me that. "I used to think I'd be poor all my life...used to picture myself living in a shack in the middle of nowhere and Mom still working at Rodbell's." I remember walking away grumbling I'm always gonna be poor. I'd been fourteen then.
"Remember how Becky was all embarrassed to even have me there?" Mom asks.
"Yeah...she'd try to hide under the table behind her friends, dreading the sight of you approaching the table," I add.
"Yeah, she survived that kick in the head and is now producing films and plays about other's kicks in the heads," Mom puts in.
"Let's not forget that's how you met Leon and Bonnie," Jackie puts in. Bonnie Bramlett is Mom and Jackie's other friend. She records music for CD's. She has a really good voice. I remember hearing her sing a long time ago at a barbecue we had at our house on Delaware Street. I think it was Mother's Day.
"God, those sparring days with Leon...I almost miss those," Mom says. For the first few years, Mom and Leon didn't get along and always bickered. But after a few years of working at the Lunch Box and Leon's coming out about being gay, he and Mom started to get along better and now they're friends.
"Didn't Crystal call the other night?" David asks. "Her line of Christmas basket cosmetic is selling like hot waffles." Crystal is another friend of Mom's and Aunt Jackie's and she owns a small cosmetics company.
"Yeah...I've been hearing people talking about it," Jackie tells us. As we enter Best Buy to look around, we run into another set of old friends, Anne-Marie and Chuck. We greet and talk bit. I haven't seen Chuck in a long while. Chuck is a DJ at a local radio station while Anne-Marie is a co-owner of the Dinner Pail and Lunch Box with Mom, Jackie, Nancy and Leon.
Since the mall is crowded, we have to weave our way through most areas. We stop at the Boston Chicken Market for dinner after we've done some serious shopping.
I get home around eight that night and continue unpacking. I still have many of Dan's things, so I put those gently in several places throughout the condo. I still get a bit achy inside remembering my dear, dear husband who died of heart disease too soon. But the painful loss is softened by the happy memories I had of him and of course, our three beautiful kids. I place a small model boat that he built on my living room mantle. As I sort through more pictures, I find some small brownish envelopes beneath the pictures of my family. I realized that it's yellowed envelopes with some very old, rather faded pictures inside. They are from way before Jackie and I were even born. I see one of Mom when she was about five or so, then see several of passed away aunts and uncles and one of Nana Mary's parents. I see writing in the back and realize that it's written from a boat.
My darling auntie Abigail, my great-grandmother has apparently written. Jacob and I will be landing in a few weeks. I hope we can make it into America once we land. Here is our poto so you know us when we come. Can you come meet us at the dock of Nww York? I look forward to seeing you again. Love, Gabrielle. There are several crossings out and misspellings, but it's not surprising considering that Gabrielle was just learning English back then when she immigrated from Poland. Jackie and I never were told much about her. I have a very dim memory of her coming once, but she was very old then and died when Jackie and I were still little.
I sit back with a thunk and carefully pull out more pictures. I am startled to see Jackie, but then understand that it's not her, but someone who closely resembles her. It's Jackie's face, but this woman is wearing turn-of-last-century clothing and foreign-looking at that. I turn the picture over and see the name Annika Harineteski on the back. It looks as if she lived around the late 1800 to early 1900's. There is no more information about her. I'm more curious, especially when I see a picture of a man that looks a lot like Mom. Again, there is not much information other than the name Johan Harineteski on the back. I wonder if they are either spouses or siblings.
Heart hammering in excitement, I get up and call Jackie and tell her what I found. She sounds excited also. "This Annika...she looks like me?" Jackie squeaks.
"Exactly..." I confirm. "She looks like you transported in time and transferred to Poland."
"Ohhhh..." Jackie squeals. "Maybe Mom and Nana Mary can tell us more. Maybe they escaped those...pogram groups that were killing all those people back then...God, they were nasty pograms...I read a book on them once and it gave me nightmares..." Jackie rattles on a bit until I laugh. She's so excitable. I promise to update her more on what I find and to show her when she comes over here before we hang up.