Monday, September 29, 2014

Norma knows and Norma gets it

Norma knows and Norma gets it
by Judy Takács

Norma and I wore sensible black pumps, giant shoulder pads and medium-large permed hair when we started our jobs on the same day in the mid-1980s at a big-eight public accounting firm in downtown Boston. I was a Graphics assistant in the two-woman Design Department and she was a Marketing assistant in the five-woman Marketing Department.

The first time we met, she said something about heading down to “the Cape” (Cape Cod) that weekend. I mentioned something about having gotten a sunburn recently. She said she doesn’t get sunburn much, so I asked her, “Oh, are you sensible?”

Without skipping a beat, she replied, “No, I’m Portuguese.”

By “sensible,” I meant does she use SPF 4 (remember it was the 1980s). She knew what I meant too.

By Portugese, she meant she tans easily. At the time, however, I only knew of Portugal as the tiny country tucked into the coast of Spain. I had never met someone of Portuguese descent, so I imagined they were known in Massachusetts as a foolhardy bunch. I came to find later, that many of my favorite people in Massachusetts were of Portuguese descent…they’re as common as Hungarians are in Cleveland I suppose.

This is a long and roundabout way of telling you that thirty years later, I still remember that these were some of the first words we spoke to each other and I’ve been laughing at and intensely scrutinizing minutiae with Norma ever since.

Norma was also the first Massachusetts resident to show me on her upward bent arm where she would be staying on the Cape…Hyannis being the elbow, Provincetown the extended pointer finger, Truro the wrist…get the picture?

Our work situation quickly drove us closer together. Our bosses were feuding and not speaking with each other, so the communication between marketing and graphics in this international company of thousands in Boston alone, had to be via two young assistant chicks who had just changed from their commuting Nikes and started their entry level jobs that morning.

Things ran beautifully though; efficiency and quality were unparalleled in our incredibly busy departments.  Thanks to the two of us, and despite our status as human shields to the animosity of our leaders, the combined departments never missed a deadline. And we always had SO much to talk about during stolen moments of gossip and hilarity between frustrations and injustices.

And so, over the past 30 years, Norma’s and my life have taken similar and divergent twists and turns. We both married, and still are. We both have all boys…5 between the two of us. We’ve both had very strong relationships with the women friends in our lives too.

And, though I have since moved away, each year or so, when my family visits Massachusetts to see my husband’s relatives, the highlight of the trip for me is always my four-hour breakfast at Mel’s Commonwealth Cafe in Wayland, Massachusetts with Norma. Nothing is in too poor taste or too high a level of sensitivity to finally exhale and place on the table for analysis during “four hour breakfast.” And, we tip as if we’ve rented the booth from the waitress for the morning…because that’s essentially what we’re doing.

Now, at certain points in our early friendship, Norma has talked about lacking courage. She has wished for initiative to leave a job that had not grown with her, gumption to speak up when she’s been wronged, and balls to put pen to paper and do some writing…which she is incredibly good at. Norma can really REALLY tell a story.

I have always seen her balls in a completely different light.

Norma’s balls are those of a true unsung hero. Everyone around her has an amazingly better life because Norma was there.  Norma is the Jimmy Stewart character in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (minus the angry scene where Jimmy calls his uncle a stupid old man for losing the envelope of money. Norma would never do that… not for lack of balls, but because she’s kind hearted, respectful of her elders and can use better adjectives, even when she’s angry.)

She is the rock, the organizer, the facilitator, the voice of reason and unfailing lover and greatest fan of the three men in her family. She is as loyal a friend as you might ever find, and instinctively knows what’s needed and seamlessly slides into that role, whether it’s center stage, supporting, understudy, walk-on or stage-hand…or just cleaning up the kitchen so you can sit on the couch and nurse your baby.

And for me, Norma’s becoming my friend so early (the first day actually) of grown-up post-college life was a Godsend. Her presence, her parties, her invitations, lunches with her and shared commiseration greatly eased the lonely transition from the college party life to the comparative isolation of my first job in a new city with a live-in boyfriend that worked all day and studied all night. (I ended up marrying him though)

And so I knew that Norma should pose and would pose for Chicks. But by the time I began Chicks with Balls some 20 years later, we only saw each other once a year for four-hour breakfast at Mel’s. And a chick’s shoot in Mel’s parking lot on Route 30 wasn’t going to cut it.

So Norma’s portrait was not included in the first round of paintings. She was, however, one of the first people I told about my Chicks idea (while my eye was twitching over the 7th cup of coffee during four-hour breakfast at Mel’s.) She promptly sent me a copy of Calendar Girls with Helen Mirren; a movie with the same coverage concept but with older chicks, British accents and shrubbery instead of balls.

Norma knew she would pose too. She came a day early when she traveled to Ohio for the debut showing of the Chicks show at BAYarts in August 2013. We had our photo shoot back at my studio…after four-hour breakfast at First Watch Daytime Café in Rocky River, Ohio.

She chose beach balls for fun and coverage. I chose the double pose because Norma knows, and Norma gets it. And because when we get together we laugh and laugh and laugh!

Detail from, Norma knows and Norma gets it

Thrilled to announce that Norma's portrait was curated by
Lakeland Community College Gallery Director, Mary Urbas to be included in…

Lakeland Community College
February 23 through March 27
Artist Reception:
Sunday, March 22, 2020
3:30 to 5:00

Norma's story and painting is also included in the
long-awaited SECOND Chicks with Balls Book.

 The book launched at the Zanesville Museum of Art
opening of the Chicks show and is now
available at the museum gift shop and on my website.

Lakeland Community College
7700 Clocktower Drive
Kirtland, Ohio