My wife and my mother had little in common other than a stronger-than-usual affection for moi
. Mrs. Cope the Younger came from Venezuela, then Ohio, then Meridian. Mrs. Cope the Elder came from Meridian, then Meridian and then died in Meridian. Mrs. Cope the Younger has loved to dance all of her life, while Mrs. Cope the Elder had an inner ear malfunction that made her unsteady on her feet, all of her life.
Mom was the daughter of a farmer and a farmer’s wife; my wife was the daughter of an artist and a missionary nurse. My wife loves to go to big cities; my mom thought Boise was a big city. My wife is Hispanic; my mom was as white as white can be.
I could go on. But what brings me here today isn’t how different they were, but how in one respect, they were alike. They both had huge crushes on James Garner.
Another way they were alike is that neither of them were (are) the sort to go goofy over celebrities. As an observer of their lives, I had a pretty good feel for who they admired and who they didn’t. My wife, for instance, has always wanted to meet David Bowie. My mom always wanted to meet Billy Graham. But only in the person of James Garner did their admiration graduate to schoolgirl-crush status.
I knew it about my wife. When we were courting, she would joke that whatever her circumstance—going steady, engaged, married, Golden Anniversary veterans, whatever—if for some reason James Garner came to sweep her off her feet, she would allow herself to be swept. She admitted to thinking he was about as cool, in every way, as a man could get.
Oh, and he just happened to be the best-looking guy on the planet.
I didn’t allow it to hurt my feelings. First of all, I had to agree he was one handsome hunk of dude. Plus, there was always a geniality to his screen persona—a sweetness—that never felt artificial or contrived, and one sensed it was as real in the actor as in the parts he played.
In other words, I understood what my wife saw in him, and I liked it nearly as much as she did.
But then, after sharing some secrets with Mom over a cup of coffee, she comes home and announces, “Guess what. You’re mother is even hotter for James Garner than I am.”
Actually, I don’t think she used the vernacular “hot.” It was more probably something like, “You’re mother is even more attracted to James Garner than I am.” Or, “You’re mother thinks James Garner is even cuter than I do.” Something like that.
But no matter how it was said, the message was clear. My Mom had the hots for James Garner!
Only then did I understand why Mom stayed awake and attentive until the end of every episode of Maverick
, when on any other night, she would fall to sleep in her recliner by the time the theme music stopped playing for most shows.
I wonder if my dad knew. I’d like to think he did, and that it didn’t bother him any more than it did me to know my wife had the hots for James Garner.
Fact is, I think maybe I had a little of the hots for James Garner, too. And maybe Dad did too, because he always stayed up for Maverick
, too. I think maybe both of us understood—not that we’d ever admit it—that a fellow could do a lot worse than have the hots for James Garner