Jonathan, Jayleen's oldest brother, was on the verge of becoming a full blown Christian back in the mid 1970's and when Norma asked him to do anything it was always "in the service of the Lord." Norma and I made fun of Jonathan's church meetings as if we were the same age. Norma would point at Jonathan's old Bar Mitzvah pictures with Rabbi Berkowitz and giggle. Jonathan had braces on his teeth and wore wire rimmed glasses which made him cute and scholarly at the same time, and despite his thirteen years we all knew Jonathan was an old soul and very mature. He had that scholarly look way before he became a full time student of the Lord in high school.
Despite Norma being the mom and me being the daughter's friend, Norma and I were as good as twins sometimes. Jayleen would get so mad at us and scream at Norma to act her age. "It is just not normal to make fun of your own son for God's sake." But Norma would nod, take a sip of white wine and give me a sly wink, which made Jayleen even madder. I know that Jayleen was jealous of my relationship with her mom, but somebody had to be the mother in the family and it certainly wasn't going to be Norma.
When Jayleen went on her tirades about us needing to stop making fun of Jonathan for going to church or for being such a nerd in school, Norma and I shut up real quick and just sat there looking at Jayleen for a full ten seconds before busting out in laughter, We laughed so hard that tears ran down our faces making us laugh and cry at the same time. Jayleen would just glare at us with her hands on her hips, shake her head and walk away to do some adult activity like fold the laundry or clean the dishes. Sometimes, she even made brownies while me and Norma sat and colored at the counter while we all gossiped about the day. Norma would smirk as if she were really proud of Jayleen's motherly instincts, although a little too bossy and stern for the likes of someone as free spirited as Norma. Norma would then offer me some more wine and by the end of the night, it would be me and Norma passed out on the couch while Jayleen went upstairs to brush her teeth, wash her face and put curlers in her hair for the next day at school, despite it being a gym day. "She's so sensitive," Norma would whisper in my ear.
I always told Norma that I knew what she meant, but deep down I was kind of guilty and didn't at all know what she meant because Jayleen was both perceptive, smart and one hundred responsible. I knew that Norma was just not being a good role model for Jayleen and I kind of felt sorry for Jayleen having to be the mom in the family. I would go up to Jayleen in the bathroom after one of Norma's little comments about Jayleen being "too sensitive" and watch her floss her teeth. I would then make some stupid comment to make sure that me and Jayleen were still best friends, and to silently apologize for being so buddy buddy with her mom. Jayleen would quietly forgive me and then we would go back to plotting ways to boss Jonathan around.
Turns out that Jonathan's religious kick became more than a kick and instead a way of life. He left Rabbi Berkowitz to take Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and while I was i was not religious myself, I envied the security and peace of mind he seemed to have. Jonathan was calm, happy and helpful just about 24 hours a day. I leafed through magazines of people in church, people reading prayer books, and individuals living in convents and monasteries. I also wondered if years down the road, I ought to pick up Jesus as my own personal savior too if things ever got out of hand.