Column: Laverne inspired girls to dream
I was raised on novelas. Every day, at least once a day, I’d follow the lives of muchachas humildes who eventually married well.
But, when I was around 9 years old, I met Laverne DeFazio.
She wasn’t in love with the handsome son of the mean rich woman who hired her. She had a job, and she shared an apartment with her best friend. She dreamed of falling in love, and she went on lots of dates — and at least one with The Fonz, the coolest mechanic on TV. She saw her dad all the time at his bowling alley-restaurant, The Pizza Bowl. Two goofy guys who lived nearby were always around to keep her company. Every Tuesday night, she and her best friend would get into all kinds of silly situations while they were punching a clock, taking chances, breaking rules and never hearing the word impossible.
And, in every episode, she was laughing.
Mi Jefita would watch “Laverne & Shirley” for the outfits. She’d look back on her memories of her own wardrobe from the 1960s; she or one of her tías had a dress like this or a skirt like that. It was true; I’d seen pictures of my parents when they were teenagers in love in Nuevo Laredo and my mom did dress like Laverne. But the beautiful muchacha mexicana in those pictures started dating her future husband when she was 15. She was never a single girl with a job who paid her own rent. She lived a world away from Laverne, and the only thing they had in common was pointy shoes and sweaters.
My favorite thing to do was to pretend I was Laverne and that my bedroom was my apartment. I couldn’t wait to grow up, to have a job, to wear high heels and pretty dresses, to flirt and go on lots of dates and then to rush home to my apartment and hang out with my best friend. I wanted to be stay close to my family. I wanted friends who would make me laugh every day.
I shared this dream with Mary, my best friend. She said she had no intention of living in a dinky little apartment with me. Her dream was to fall in love with a novela-cute guy, get married and live in a nice house.
Penny Marshall, the actor and director who played Laverne, died last week. And though I never met her, I’ll never forget the Tuesday nights I spent with Laverne when I was in the fourth grade. While she was making her dreams come true, I was sitting on the floor in front of the TV, figuring out mine.
And I was laughing.