THIS IS ME
by Chelle Cordero
It was a rainy day in April 1945 when my parents got married. A few years later, my sister was born; four-plus more years and several attempts later, my parents conceded that they weren’t destined to have another child. So, they blew the money they had saved for a new baby on a new (used) car and a vacation in the Catskills. That’s where I began…
I was raised in apartment 2D in the Bronx – our move to apartment 2G (in the same building) when I was eleven was a monumental change in my life as my parents moved off the sofabed in the livingroom into a bedroom of their own. My sister and I helped paint our new livingroom with one-inch wide paintbrushes – nothing was impossible.
Growing up was always an adventure for me, especially with an imagination as active as mine was. I remember three strangers to our neighborhood that mysteriously disappeared into the basement of the building next door on an almost daily basis. One day, a daring friend and I crept down after them to observe what they were doing. They had clips and wires coming out of the building’s telephone junction box! Convinced that we had discovered some huge international espionage plot, we were giddy with excitement. When they turned in our direction, we ran, frightened for our very lives. That was the last time we ever saw them.
As if I needed any encouragement into the world of make-believe, I studied Theatre Arts and Drama at the High School of Art and Design, Fordham University and the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts. After some humble, probably annoying, pleading, I managed a nondescript and all too short walk-on in the movie “Plaza Suite” starring Walter Matthau and Maureen Stapleton (How many degrees to Kevin Bacon?). I appeared (very far off) off-off Broadway and did a summer stint as a lighting technician at the Lake Placid Center for Performing Arts. I also worked my way through college as an undercover retail fraud investigator.
My parents believed in mandatory community service although the choice of what we did was up to us. My sister was a Candy Striper at the local hospital, I joined the New York City Auxiliary Police at our local precinct – my dad was the Auxiliary Police Captain. That’s where I met my husband, at least REALLY met him. We had gone to the same high school (he studied photography) but my only vague memory of him was when he, in the guise of a by-the-book hall monitor, tried to prevent me from going to the backstage area to work on an upcoming play. True, it was between class periods and I didn’t have a hall pass, but the theatre students were used to making their own rules. Anyway, back to the Auxiliary Police… I thought he was an egomaniac snob, he didn’t care for me much either.
We kept getting assigned together as patrol partners and even though we built a terrific reputation as partners and seemed to communicate almost telepathically, I complained to our superiors. The Patrol Sergeant, the Lieutenant and the Captain (MY dad) kept pointing the finger at each other for the decision making process that kept throwing us together. A year and a half later, we had our first date; two weeks after that, we were engaged. He kidnapped me and refused to bring me home until I said yes, I figured I’d ask my father to beat him up. But when I told my parents that Mark had proposed, my dad clasped his hands together and said “Thank God!”
We settled in the suburbs less than an hour northwest of the city and began our family. Shortly after the birth of our daughter, I pursued a free-lance writing career and worked out of a home office. As a teen-ager I had written a few articles for a weekly Bronx newspaper and had since dabbled in poetry and pieces of prose just for the fun of it. After our son joined the picture, I managed to convince a few more rags to print my articles. This was about the time I had a weekly column as “Bonzo, the Ape” and shared profound thoughts on life. Since then, I’ve written more commonly as myself, sometimes conducting interviews (and trust me, you wouldn’t believe the things people sometimes tell you about themselves!), covering Grand Opening events, researching new trends and fashions, writing advertorials and business profiles, and just about anything else that will sell. I also spent a few summers teaching Creative Writing to kids in a local program.
Both my husband and I joined our local ambulance corps as volunteers and went on to become New York State Emergency Medical Technicians. I’ve helped to deliver babies, did CPR during codes, pulled people out of car wrecks, splinted broken bones, monitored the vitals of drug overdoses, stopped bleeding, and held patients’ hands enroute to the hospital. Both of our kids have followed us into the E.M.S. community and, often, dinner conversation at our table is not for the weak of stomach. Many of our friends are also involved with the local emergency services, medical and fire, and it isn’t unusual to have a festive holiday party empty out as soon as a pager goes off. The stories we swap are never boring.
My daughter and my son have justified every gray hair I’ve gotten. They’ve kept me on my toes, made me laugh, made me shake my head and cry, shared their dreams with me, allowed me to boast about them, and have each become a vital part of my inner circle of close friends. I done the gamut of class mother, Girl Scout leader, Cub Scout mom, school parents’ association, and advisor in various youth groups. My favorite age has always been whatever age they were at the time. I love it when we hang out together or they invite me to go someplace with them and their friends.
I’ve always played a favorite game I call “What if?” whenever I see something unexpected, do something new, or hear about some adventure. I mentally place fictional characters into the setting and then I ask myself what if THIS happens, or THAT? By staying involved in my community, active with my family, reading avidly and even surfing on the Internet, I get a lot of fuel for my overactive imagination.
That means a lot of stories – please, join me