I’ll Be Seeing You Too
While I was out in New Jersey, hunting down some of my mom’s old stomping grounds, her cousins from my grandmother’s Bennetto side, Joan (Joannie) Maly and Veronica (Roni) Belmont, were helping me to figure things out. They still are because I have so many questions I wish my mother could answer, and they have been a God sent in helping me feel closer to her.
Through this journey, I have connected with each through different means. Joannie is on Facebook but does not use a cell phone. Roni is just the opposite, cell phone—yes, Facebook—no, but through these means, it is easy to stay connected to both and share lots of information.
The day I went to my mother’s home town of East Orange to spread her ashes, I chatted with both on a video call—each giving me their recollection of the area. Their insight is in a separate posting, but that day, another miracle happened. Both of them, Joannie & Roni, ran across my writing of I’LL BE SEEING YOU, each in different venues, and both of them told me they had a story for me.
I knew this was some connection to the history of this song in the family. Their versions are slightly different. I will start with the similarities first.
Both tell me this was, of course, a popular song in the 1940s. They went on to say that during family gatherings, sure enough, those with musical talent would play it. It turns out that my grandmother Elizabeth, affectionately known as NANNY, played the piano as well as her son, Hank (my uncle). Joannie and Roni’s father played the violin.
There were other songs they would play too. I am noting the ones Roni shared with me because I do like to hear them. It helps me feel closer to my mom.
THERE’S A SMALL HOTEL – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuD8InlCk-Y
A BICYCLE BUILT FOR TWO – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78MKBHR3NbU (This one I recall. Unsure if my mother or grandmother would sing it to me, but when I heard the lyrics, they were very familiar.)
Interestingly enough, I have always had a passion for 1940’s big band swing music. Now, my affection for this genre has only increased.
Another thing they both told me was their father, Uncle Al (Alexander Bennetto), would frequently cite the words of I’LL BE SEEING YOU. If they would be apart, he would say, “I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.” I wonder if my grandmother Elizabeth did the same with her kids? Where my Uncle Al ran a local tavern, THE WIGWAM, and would be gone in the evenings, I do not believe my grandmother was apart from her children as often.
The other item they both told me was this song was an integral part of their mother’s passing. While some of the details differ, they both recall sitting with their mother, reading prayers with the radio low in the background.
Joannie remembers playing old-time tunes, and for hours the radio worked just fine, then it got staticky, and Joannie could not get it tuned in just right, but when she did, I’LL BE SEEING YOU was playing. In her recollection, they looked at each other and knew that their father was there, and they knew their mother would be passing soon.
Roni recalls listening to the radio too, but it was a mix of songs—old, new—various genres. As their mother’s health was failing, Roni turned to Joannie and said, “I wonder if she sees dad?” At that moment, I’LL BE SEEING YOU came on the radio, and they looked at each other and confirmed their belief that their father, Uncle Al, was there. Indeed, their mother died that evening.
I love both of these versions so much. Each story passionately brings forth the value of this song with the passing of their mother. As I suspected, this song was a part of their family events. My mother would have known it well and valued it just as her (my) cousins do too.
Gosh darn it, I miss you, mom, but I am so very blessed that one afternoon, you suggested I call Joannie and Roni to tell them you were in the hospital. They are helping to fill the void you left in my heart and my life. I love you, mom, and yes, I’LL BE SEEING YOU in all the old familiar places. (A blog of all I learned in her neighborhood coming soon. 😊)
If you have not yet read the story of how my mother touched me through this song, you’ll find that here.