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She Laughs Alone: 12 Things About Mom

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1.Terry Sigman (nee Berkowitz) was Louis Prima's Gal Friday, circa 1947. From the fifth floor of the Brill Building, she supervised his bets on the ponies, signed autographs on his behalf and met my dad.

2. A decade or so later, she provided her three sons with a singular interpretation of the Great American Songbook. The Arlen/Mercer gem "One For My Baby" is splendidly melancholic --"It's quarter to three/There's no one in the place/But just you and me/So set 'em up, Joe." She adds noirishness by changing one word -- "So stick 'em up, Joe." A single substitution also changes the valence of the Arlen/Koehler classic that begins, "I've got the world on a string/Sittin' on a Rainbow/Got that string around my finger." She turns the next line --"What a world/What a life" -- into a send-up of moon/June/spoon: "What a world/What a string."

3. A neighbor once came knocking with daughter it tow, asking mom if said daughter could come in and watch my dad write a song. Mom explained, "He does most of his writing on the john."

4. When her solution to a crossword puzzle clue exceeds the number of letters called for in the diagram, she adds extra boxes on the side and voila, it fits perfectly.

5. She often transcends conversational linearity. What an amateur might see as a loony non sequitur is, in Mom's hands, invariably connected to a point of discussion that arose earlier. Sometimes days earlier.

6. The screwball fairy stories she told us when we got sick pre-dated the wonderful "Fractured Fairy Tales" on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. When Fairy Godmother tells Cinderella to "Look at that magnificent horse-drawn carriage," Cindy looks to and fro and says, "What carriage?"

7. Preparing gourmet meals rarely appeared on her "to do" list. Once, she overcooked a steak so thoroughly, no one could find it. Eventually, we discovered its shriveled remains under the grill.

8. She didn't spend time in the Deep South, but she was a devotee of Tennessee Williams and fell in love with the accent. For a year or so, she drawled like a debutante from Laurel, Mississippi.

9. On a drizzly evening 40 years ago, as my folks arrived at the famed Fillmore East to see my brother Jeff play guitar, menacing-looking Hell's Angels were hanging out in front of the theater. My dad was terrified. But Mom set a successful strategy in motion when she instructed Dad to put on his dark glasses and, using his umbrella as a cane, feign blindness.

10. One Christmas season, she hung the tree upside down from a hole in the ceiling, the result of my brother Randy's foot falling through the attic floor.

11. She decided many years ago that she'd call her autobiography, I Laugh Alone. She hasn't begun writing it yet, but as my dad used to say, getting the title is half the battle.

12. When the time comes, she'd like her sons to mix her ashes with my dad's and scatter them on the fifth floor of the Brill. But sentimentality goes only so far. She says, "I know I'll end up in a vacuum cleaner."