Disclaimer that names that Happy Days fans recognize are not mine; only the non-canon names are mine.
It has been years later after the ending of Happy Days…A one-shot short fic…Chachi is now a middle-aged man and returns to his old childhood neighborhood one Thanksgiving holiday and reflects on all that has changed and developed over the years….enjoy, esp. fellow Chachi/Charlie Arcola fans!
Memories in the Wind
The late autumn wind blows my gray-flecked dark hair over my rather long, pointed face as I walk briskly through the old park near my old apartment where I grew up.
My wonderful wife Joanie and I, along with our three children are back visiting Joanie's mom for the Thanksgiving holidays.
As I walk, I reflect on all that has changed since I married Joanie…so much has gone on and changed and not just the outer world things like the Vietnam disaster or the Nixon scandal or the ending of the Cold War that had so terrified me as a child.
Joanie and I miraculously managed to keep our marriage strong even when I had my emotional breakdown just three years after our wedding. I shiver slightly as I remember the three months I spent in the hospital, the funny farm as some people still call it.
I really have only a sketchy memory of what caused my breakdown, but Joanie and my mom had found me holding my hands in a stove fire and I'd seemed to have no reaction.
Through a long therapy treatment and medication, I was able to figure out that I tend to be sensitive to stress. And there was a lot, lot of stress going on in my life as well as Joanie's.
The studios where Joanie and I recorded our music were rather competitive and our then-manager was pressuring us to basically sell our souls for a profit for their record company.
In addition, there were several deaths in both of our families…Ralph Malph, who died in an army drill accident, then Joanie's dad, Howard, of heart disease, then Fonzie in a motorcycle accident a few years later, then my beloved stepdad of a heart attack.
Marion, who'd been a housewife for a long time, had gone back to work in a high school office as a secretary. After her husband died, she'd had quite an adjustment to make and afterward, bought a condominium near the edge of Milwaukee.
I was especially crushed by Fonzie and my stepfather, Al's deaths. Arthur Fonzerelli, my cousin and I had been rather close. He'd been almost like an older brother to me. I'd been a rather small, scrawny, somewhat timid and awkward boy and some of the other boys bullied me and it was Fonzie who'd protect me.
He didn't always understand my many quirks and oddness, but he was there for me nonetheless. All of us had been crushed by his untimely death, especially his adopted son, Danny and Fonzie's new wife, Rita Marcelli.
And dear Al…he and my mother married a few years before Joanie and I did and became more of a dad than my biological dad had ever been. Mom and I had both been shattered when he died. How I'll never forget Mom and I weeping in each others' arms at Al's funeral. It was hardest on her since Al was her beloved lover, then husband.
I push my round wire-rimmed glasses up my nose and slowly sit on a bench at the edge of the park and watch a couple strolling under the now-bare trees and also a couple of kids playing tag or something by the fountains.
Joanie is today a high school history teacher at Lamar High while I am an interior designer. I'm happy to report that both she and I are now happy in our careers. There is something pleasurable about seeing a bare-looking office space turn into a living, breathing place that people feel comfortable doing business in.
My mind wanders over to our three kids…Laura, who's now fourteen and has started high school this year…Al, named for my stepfather, who is twelve, and our youngest, Gabriella, eight.
Laura and Gabriella have inherited my straight black hair and dark brown eyes, while Al has Joanie's hazel eyes and sepia brown hair. But in facial features, only Gabriella, who often goes by Gab, has my small pointed nose, rather pointed chin, large, almond-shaped eyes with rather droopy upper eyelids, long bushy brows, and large lower lip.
Joanie says that Gab has lots of my personality also. The older two more closely resemble Joanie in facial features…small, almond-shaped eyes, high chiseled cheekbones and overbite.
Thinking of our kids also reminds me of Joanie's brother Rich and his former wife Lori Beth's kids…like us, they have three…Richie, named after his dad, Bob, and Jane.
Neither Joanie nor I see Rich often anymore; Rich moved back out to California after he and Lori Beth divorced. Rich had always wanted to go into movie writing, but it's a hard business to get into. I know since Joanie and I knew we'd have a tough time going into the music industry full time, especially since my breakdown.
Tears fill my eyes as I remember finding out how jealous Rich had been of Joanie and me. He'd subtly bullied me whenever Joanie and Arthur, or Fonzie as we called him, were not around.
He'd also blamed his parents, Howard and Marion for his stint in the army and also for bouncing around in various jobs over the years and basically meandering about, not knowing which end was up.
He and Lori Beth fought more and more, especially when Lori Beth needed to get a job since Rich's income was often not enough. Lori Beth didn't want to keep moving back in with the Cunninghams and by then they had their kids to support.
I guess it was Rich's getting a job at a restaurant out on Los Angeles that broke the camel's back…camel or horse, they say? I don't really know…but Rich wanted to just pack up the family and for Lori Beth to just quit her job as a receptionist, uproot the kids once again and move out there with him. By then, little Richie had started kindergarten.
Lori Beth was really broken up about all of it; she'd come to Joanie and me in tears. She'd spent a few nights and had decided on her own to stay, that her kids needed stability and she loved her job here and had her mom and aunt.
Rich had come back, hoping to just pack them all up and take them, but Lori Beth stood her ground and said she was staying her.
My throat tightens painfully and the tears in my eyes spill over as I remember how Rich had turned and lashed out at Joanie and me, blaming us for their marital problems and Lori Beth's wanting to stay here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He'd even shoved me until I became frightened and Joanie yelled at him to stop.
Thankfully, Marion was coming over and came in and had pulled Rich off me. By then, Joanie, Lori Beth, and I were all in tears. Marion and Richie yelled some at each other, then Richie just took off. Now Marion only hears from him by phone very occasionally and once in a great while, Fonzie's other friend, Potsie hears from him.
Lori Beth and her kids have remained here and Lori Beth is now an office manager. She's currently also seeing an Eric Marsden, who is a divorced father of two kids, Sydney and Claire. Eric is a graphic designer who often does business with the firm I work for.
They're hoping to marry next year. I often pray that Lori Beth will be happier with Eric than she was with Rich. So far, Eric seems nice; Joanie and I have often gone out to dinner with Lori Beth and Eric and had a good time.
"Charlie…love?" I hear my mom's voice speak softly behind me. I turn and see that Mom has arrived. Dark brown eyes meeting my own dark ones, her once-black, now gray hair blowing in the wind. I've been told I look like her. "Are you all right, darling?"
"Oh…yes, I think so…" Remembering that I probably still have tear streaks on my face, I wipe a hand over my face as Mom sits beside me on the bench and strokes me softly. "Hi, Mom…did your trip go smoothly?"
"Mostly," she says. "Just huge crowds in the station, but what can one expect the day before Thanksgiving?" She shrugs, then hugs me close. I lean on her and savor her warm arms, those arms that hugged my all those years.
"Memories?" Mom asked.
"You know me very well," I say ruefully.
"That's saying something for being a single mother…" Mom adds. "You get to know your children extremely well."
I'm always happy to see her, but I guess because it's almost Thanksgiving, I feel a special gratitude to her for raising me as she did. Until she married Al, she raised me singly and I could tell it was not easy for her…especially since until recently single mothers were stigmatized. Mom's my hero in many ways.
"Mom…" I say. "Thanks for raising me as well as you have."
"Oh, darling…dear boy, my dear Chachi," she runs her hand through my hair, using my old nickname. "You're welcome…and thank you for continuing to be a wonderful son."
We sit for another few minutes, then decide to head back to Marion's condo. "Let's just hope the kids haven't made a shambles of Marion's kitchen," I say ruefully and Mom laughs as we head back.
Storyline Copyright November 2009 by CNJ