Can it be that it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten every line? If we had the chance to do it all again, Tell me, would we? Could we?
I’ll never forget. It was Jan. 23, 1981, a Friday night.
I’m in a backyard, playing the basketball game, H-O-R-S-E, with this high school freshman basketball player. Our first game was around 10 p.m. Like I said, this was January, in Belleville, NJ, not exactly the warmest time of the year. But we didn’t care.
On occasion, a family member of the freshman basketball player would pull into the driveway, say hello and go inside the house, while the marathon games continued.
Jennifer Apicella and I must have played 50 games of H-O-R-S-E that evening, (I probably lost 47 of them) on her legendary driveway/basketball court. The games spilled into the early hours of Jan. 24. The sound of a bouncing ball on the macadam, or one of us keeping a verbal score of a particular game, was usually transfixed by laughter, or a few bad words, usually prompted by a good shot, or a missed layup.
Suddenly, from the upstairs window of Jenny’s house, came a voice.
Mr. and Mrs. Apicella. (Click on photo for larger image)
“Do you two know what time it is?”.
Memories light the corners of my mind, Misty water-colored memories, of the way we were. Scattered pictures, of the smiles we left behind, smiles we gave to one another, for the way we were.
We both looked at each other, then looked up to where the voice emanated, since we seriously had no idea of the time. Sheepishly, we both said, ‘No, what time is it?’
“It’s almost 2 o’clock in the morning,” was the response. “You want to keep playing, go ahead, but I don’t want the neighbors complaining.”
Sure enough, Eileen Apicella, Jenny’s mom, was 100 percent correct.
So, I headed home, which was all of a five-minute drive. There would be plenty of more games played in that backyard over the next three years, but that night certainly stood out.
Jennifer Apicella would go on to set amazing scoring records at Belleville High, including a then state-record 3,105 points, in just 100 varsity games. And through it all, Jen’s family was always there, including of course, her mom and dad, Tom.
On Feb. 21, 2019, Eileen Apicella departed this life to join her husband, who had passed a few years ago. And while Mr. and Mrs. Apicella’s time on this earth have been completed, their legacy has no boundary.
Oh, why does it seem that the past is always better? We look back and we think the winters were warmer, the grass was greener, the skies were bluer and smiles were bright…
There were so many great times at the Chandelier, a catering hall in town which the Apicellas built, with a lot of hard work and diligence, into a classic gathering place, complete with good food and ambiance, often to celebrate a marriage, hundreds of Varsity Club dinners, the beginning of life, the celebration of a completed life, or anything else in between. And when they weren’t providing a lifetime of memories through hard work at the Chandelier, you’d see Tom and Eileen at sporting events, as all four of the Apicella children were a part of the Blue and Gold.
Eldest daughter Eileen was a cheerleading captain, Jenny played hoops while older son Tom and youngest, John, were a part of some tremendous football teams.
Mrs. Apicella was always in the background. She was the matriarch of the family, a wife, mother, grandmother, friend and confidant. I often thought of her as the glue. All families need that, and she did her job with class and buoyancy. You only needed to speak to her to know how she exuded respect.
She was always Mrs. Apicella to me, from age 21, when I first met her, through this week. And she always will be. We talked about the NBA (she and I liked the Boston Celtics back when the playoff games with the 76ers were legendary), high school hoops and just about everything in between. She never raised her voice, always smiled and treated everyone well, while we always knew where we stood with her, which is not an easy thing to do.
God Bless you, Mrs. Apicella. Say hello to my mom and dad when you get a chance. You were all a part of a wonderful generation of parents who taught us so much about life. Thank you will never be enough
Mrs. Apicella’s son, John, said it best on social media.
“Last night my family lost the heart of our family. She was the the epitome of grace, compassion and love. She spoke with a quiet strength and even though she was slight in stature she could bare the weight if the world on her shoulders while never complaining . She taught me compassion, forgiveness, empathy and kindness. I am a better person because of you,”
Memories may be beautiful and yet, what’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget. So it’s the laughter, we will remember, whenever we remember, the way we were.