Today is my cousin Mary Veazey’s birthday. I will not say how old she is. I’ll say only that she is old enough that she’s always thought she had the right to boss me around.
We have had many good times together.
The most memorable, right now, aside from the times we almost broke up church because we couldn’t stop laughing, and the time she made me go on the Cruise from You-Know-Where, is the time we went to the drive-in movie to see The Great Gatsby, and her eleven- and twelve-year-old sons–I’ll call them Boy C and Boy G–sat in the back seat griping for the length of the dumb, boring show and yowling to go home.
When the second feature came on, however, the boys displayed immediate interest. It was The Sterile Cuckoo, a cute, sweet movie starring Liza Minnelli. We hadn’t planned to stay for it, but every time Mary Veazey said we had to leave, the boys protested. This was a real good movie, Mom, so we stayed.
We stayed so long that we ran into the scene in the little motel room in which Minneli’s college freshman girl, Pookie Adams, offers Wendell Burton’s sweet, shy freshman boy the opportunity to “Peel the Tomato.”
And there we were, as they say, ketched.
The boys in the back seat were leaning head and shoulders into the front. They were very, very quiet. I don’t think they were breathing.
Their mother and I didn’t breathe either, because if we had, laughter would have bounced off the screen and echoed throughout the lot.
Suppressing that much laughter for an entire scene hurts.
Finally, the camera pulled waaaay back on the two young characters walking across a field of green, accompanied by the Sandpipers’ lovely rendition of “Come Saturday Morning.”
Mary Veazey saw an opportunity and grabbed it. “Okay, time to go.” She replaced the speaker on its stand, started the car, threw it into gear, and tore out of there.
Boys: “Aw, Mom, it’s not over yet.”
Mom: “Yes it is.”
Boys: “But the music isn’t over. Let’s stay till the music’s over.”
Mom: “No, I want to get out before everybody else does. Don’t want to have to wait in line.”
Boys: “Awwww, Mom. We want to stay.”
Mom: “No, it’s late. Gotta get home.”
Mary Veazey couldn’t give me the evil eye because by that time she was laughing, too.
All the way home, we heard from the back seat, “Boy, that was a good movie.” “Yeah, that was good.” “I wish we could have stayed till the music was over.” “Yeah. That was good.” Periodically, one leaned forward and said, “What’re y’all laughing at?”
Then Boy G said, “What was the name of that movie?” They looked back at the still visible marquee.
Boy G read, “Shirley Cuckoo.”
From the front seat: “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…”
“Not ‘Shirley,'” said Boy C. “The Stirlee Cuckoo.”
Front seat, louder, “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…”
Laughing that hard hurts, too. And it can be dangerous. I’m surprised Mary Veazey didn’t run the car up onto the sidewalk and get us all hauled off to jail. It’s good she didn’t, because we’d have just laughed harder.
The next morning no one mentioned the movie. But that afternoon, while the boys and two neighbor girls played cards in the living room, and I sat in the kitchen waiting for cookies to bake (cookies the boys were making, hahahaha again), I caught part of the conversation.
Boy G (quietly): “We went to a movie last night.”
Girls: “What was it rated?”
Boy C (whispering): “X, I think.”
I was sorry Mary Veazey was at work and missed the punch line.
Several years later, The Sterile Cuckoo aired on television. About five minutes into the movie, the phone rang. It was Mary Veazey. “What are you doing?”
“You know what I’m doing. Watching The Stirlee Cuckoo.”
Happy Birthday, Mary Veazey. We ought to take the boys to the movie again sometime.
Mary Veazey Barrow
Note 1: Our grandmother’s maiden name was Mary Veazey. For people who say, Mary What?, it’s pronounced VEE-zee. Alternatives, for those in the family, are Veazey, Merveazey, and other such diminutives. She introduces herself as Mary. I got the Mary part of our grandmother’s name but was spared the Veazey confusion. My problem comes from the Katherine I got from my great-grandmother. I’m Kathy, but I have to introduce myself as Mary to anyone holding an official, or unofficial, record. On seeing Mary Katherine, many people say, “Are you a nun?” I’m not.
Note 2: All this happened in 1974. I don’t know whether Boys C and G have even seen the real ending of The Stirlee Cuckoo. I don’t know whether they ever learned the correct title. I don’t even know whether they remember any of this at all. But if I send this post to their wives on Facebook, they will.
Note 3: President Nixon resigned later that week, but the movie is my more vivid recollection.
Note 4: Both The Great Gatsby and The Sterile Cuckoo had been out for several years before this story took place. I’m always behind in my movie-going.
Here’s a clip from The Sterile Cuckoo.