THE PURPLE HEART
The soothing strains of Clair de
lune drifted down the stairs, through the dining room and into the
kitchen where Jim and Pat Cooper were preparing dinner. She had made a
Chocolate Mousse for desert and had steaks under the broiler. He was
putting finishing touches on the salad.
The music came from Christy’s
room, their seventeen-year-old daughter and only child. She was
practicing her violin for an up coming competition. The winner would be
awarded a college scholarship.
To look at Christy, one would never
guess she would be interested in the violin. She was a tomboy at heart.
She wore her long, golden, brown hair in a ponytail and the only time
she wore dresses was for church or special events at school. Otherwise
she wore jeans, shorts or jogging suits. She had very large, brown eyes
with long, thick lashes, which every woman who met or knew her, envied.
“ I love that song. Said Pat,
She’s really good isn’t she? Do you think she has a good chance of
good as any, I would say.”
Most people thought Pat and Jim made
an odd looking couple. He was twelve years her senior with salt and
pepper hair. He wore thick, black-rimmed glasses and carried a corncob
pipe between his teeth, which he seldom lit. He was a man of few words
and at the age of forty-six, had been the president of Liberty Savings
and Loan for twenty years. That’s where he met Pat. She was seventeen
and working part time as a teller, going to school to learn the realty
business. Now at the age of thirty-four, (Looking twenty four) she owned
her own company. Her body was lean and trim and her ash blonde hair was
cut in a pixie style. She had small hazel eyes that almost closed when
“Well, that’s it. Said Pat,
taking the steaks from the oven, if you’ll pour the coffee and ice
Christy’s tea, I’ll go get her.”
The conversation at the dinner table
eventually got around to the competition.
“Well, I’ve heard the others
play at recitals and I think you have them all beat.” said Pat.
“Oh, I don’t know, Mom.
Jason’s been working awfully hard. About the only thing he’s done
lately is practicing his piano. He’s really good and so versatile.”
Jason Micelli lived four doors down
the block. He and Christy were the same age and had grown up together.
They were good friends, more like brother and sister they were so close.
He had one sister, Jill, who was ten. There were no children in the
neighborhood her age to play with and she simply idolized Christy,
therefore made a pest of herself as often as possible.
Jason was a tall, slender young man
with dark hair, eyes and complexion. He was of Italian descent.
Their school mascot was the Raven
and both Christy and Jason belonged to a very elite group of students
called The Raven Sensations. So elite in fact, that they had to pass an
audition and be invited to join. The requirements were that you had to
be able to either play a musical instrument, sing or dance and
you had to do it quite well.
They were always in competition with
other schools. There was the local, which included the surrounding
counties, then the state, and if they were lucky enough to win state,
there was the national.
Jason had been playing piano for
seven years. His parents gave him lessons after he started picking out
tunes by ear. He picked it up in a short time and even composed a
little. He also put together a small band consisting of two guitars, a
drum and his piano.
Kenny and Joe Green played the guitars.
Tom played well enough to get by but
his specialty was dancing. He looked like a young Robert Redford and
danced so well they nicknamed him, Limber Legs, then shortened it to,
Joe played the guitar almost as well
as Jason played the piano except he didn’t go in for the classical. He
was a little guy, quite handsome, however, with brown hair and blue
eyes. They called him Shorty but he was comfortable with it.
Wade Watson played the drums. Now
there was a character. Picture Art Garfunkle with red hair and you have
Wade. He was the comedian of the group, always cracking jokes, keeping
everyone laughing. He was good on the drums but he liked to clown around
with them and did a little comedy skit, also some stand-up comedy.
On the weekends when they didn’t
have practice with The Raven Sensations or competition, they played for
nursing homes and weddings. They’d
all pile in Wades old Chevy Station Wagon with their instruments, except
for the piano of course, and off they’d go.
Occasionally, Christy went along.
She and Tom did a little dance routine. Joe did a solo on the guitar,
Wade did his comedy, the band played requests and they put on a nice
little show. One day while loading the instruments into the wagon,
everyone noticed that Wade had put decals all over the drums. They were
purple hearts, pierced with silver arrows.
“Why in the world did you put
purple hearts, of all things, on the drums?” asked Joe.
“Well, sissy had them laying
around the house for months and I got this brilliant idea. We need a
name for the band and I thought we could call ourselves The Purple
Hearts or The Silver Arrows or The Pierced Hearts. I kind of like The
Purple Hearts myself, it’s different. What do you guy’s think?”
After some debate, they all agreed
with Wade. They would call themselves The Purple Heart Band because,
said Jason, they were willing to go above and beyond the call of duty
when it came to pleasing their audience.
Jason’s parents were Mick and Rona
Micelli. Mick was Jim’s age and an older version of Jason. Tall, dark
and handsome, friendly and out going. He owned an Italian restaurant
called The House of Rona.
are just as versatile as Jason.” Said Pat.
“ I meant he’s versatile on the
piano, Mom. He can play anything. All I play is classical and he wants
to win really bad.”
does that mean, you don’t?”
“No, I think it would be great.
It’s just my personal opinion that Jason is better than me.”
probably Jill, Christy said with a sigh, I’ll get it.”
She opened the
door and was surprised to see Jason.
“Oh, hi. I
thought you were Jill. Come on in.”
interrupt your dinner, did I?”
we were just talking about you and the competition, in fact.”
“Oh, the dreaded competition. Well
just five more days and it will be over. I’ll be glad, won’t you?”
sure will. What are you up to?”
“Some of the gang’s meeting at
Dawson’s for ice cream. I thought I’d see if you wanted to go.”
“Hum; mom’s made some of her
famous mousse I’d have to pass up. But, then Dawson’s has some
mighty good ice cream, so yeah I’ll go. Just let me go tell mom and
Pat and Christy went shopping for a
gown, as the competition was to be a formal affair. Pat picked out a
frilly pink gown and had Christy try it on. She knew she wouldn’t like
it and when she came out from the dressing room and looked in the mirror
she said, “Oh mom, this is awful.”
wrong with it? I think it’s lovely.”
“On you it would be. Please mom,
this isn’t me. Please let me pick one for myself.”
my guest.” Pat answered in an irritable tone.
Christy looked over her choices and
picked out a white gown with a straight skirt. It had tiny diamonds of
metallic, gold, brocade sparsely placed here and there. The bodice was
plain white and free of the gold except for a tiny row around the
plunging neckline and the straps that went over the shoulders and
crossed in the back.
When she emerged from the dressing
room, Pat got a lump in her throat and tears burned her eyes.
“It’s elegant, she managed to
say, just elegant. I have a gold necklace and earrings that will go just
perfect with that dress. You look so sophisticated, so grown up, so
“Gosh mom thanks.” Christy
replied, a little embarrassed, a little proud.
“I have to admit, you did a much
better job than I did. You are just gorgeous. Now, to the shoe
“Mom, I have that pair of white
pumps you bought last Easter. I’ve only worn them once. Don’t you
think they will go with the dress? They’re comfortable at least.”
“I was thinking something gold but
maybe you’re right, it could be too much gold.”
The day of the competition finally
arrived. Everyone was in a nervous dither, especially Pat. She fussed
over Christy’s hair half of the morning and finally decided on a
French twist with a long, spiral of a curl at each temple.
do you like it?” she asked.
like it, it makes me look sophisticated. Which I’m not.”
Pat placed the gold necklace around
Christy’s neck. It was a delicate gold chain with a small, filigree
butterfly. The earrings were matching butterflies.
“Your dad gave this to me on our
first anniversary. I think it’s beautiful but it’s not my type of
jewelry. You know me; I prefer something a little showier. So, it’s
will dad say?”
“He’ll be pleased as punch to
see you wear it. That is if he even remembers it.” She added
beautiful, so delicate. Dad has good taste. Thank you.”
“Oh, sorry mom. You have good
taste too, when it comes to you anyway. You always look good. I’ve
seen the way the men turn and look when you walk by.”
“Well, that’s not much of a
compliment. Most men will turn and look at anything in skirts, but thank
Pat chose a lavender, blue, gown
with an A line skirt and spaghetti straps, with a Bolero type chiffon
jacket. She accessorized with three strands of pearls, pearl stud
earrings and an evening bag embroidered with tiny seed pearls.
When Jim turned his car into the
parking lot of the university, where the competition was being held,
Christy saw Jason, Tom and Wade standing around the entrance. She wished
they would go on in. She felt good about the way she looked and wanted
to make a grand entrance.
was not to be.
Jason saw Christy walking up the
sidewalk with her parents but he didn’t recognize her at first. He had
seen her in formal attire before but it had always been some frilly
thing that Pat had picked for her and she looked awkward and out of
place. Now, as she walked
up to him, he was floored.
this you, Christy?” was all he could manage to say.
Christy took an elegant pose and
held out her hand as though to be kissed and said in a haughty voice,
“Christina; if you please.”
Jason responded, took her hand and
kissed it, totally mesmerized. He had fallen head over heels in love.
Wade bent over with laughter,
slapping himself on the knee and without a word turned and walked
inside, dragging Tom with him. “They’re finally getting it, he said
to Tom, what everyone else has known all along.”
Christy noticed the change in
Jason’s eyes as he looked at her and thought she could look into those
Jason held out his arm for her to
take and they walked proudly into the university with Pat and Jim close
Pat could feel the magic in the air
and told Jim that it would not be long before Christy would be on his
arm and he would be marching her down the aisle.
She gave Christy and Jason a hug
before they went back stage and wished them both the best of luck.
Mick, Rona and Jill were already in
their seats and Pat and Jim squeezed in beside them.
The judges were in their places.
They consisted of, the music professor from the university, two previous
winners, the conductor of the university orchestra and a local D.J.
The students were to perform in
alphabetical order, which put Christy pretty close to first. When it
came her turn, she walked quite regally out on to the stage.
Although it was not her personal favorite, she honored Pat’s
request and played Clair de lune. She played it perfectly and received
the first standing ovation of the day. She was overjoyed and gave
a most gracious bow.
and Jim were so proud they both had tears in their eyes.
When Jason’s turn came he, like
Christy, walked tall and proud out on stage. The people who had heard
him play at recitals and with the Raven Sensations began clapping and
chanting, Jason! Jason! Jason!
He decided to play a medley and began
with Nocturne in E flat by Chopin, working his way into a very fast Tico
Tico and ending with 12th Street Rag. It brought the house
down, so to speak.
The students who were left to
perform lost heart because they knew they didn’t have a chance.
Rona and Mick were very proud and
Jim gave Mick a pat on the back saying, “congratulations” even
before the winner was announced.
When it came time to announce the
winner, Dean Watson stepped on stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen, he said, I
will keep this brief. We have had a grand time here today. Never, have I
seen so much talent. I think you will all agree with me that each and
everyone who performed here today is a winner. Unfortunately, we can
have only one and the judges have come to a unanimous decision. Ladies
and gentlemen, that winner is; Jason Micelli!”
As Jason walked out on stage,
everyone began clapping and chanting again. When they composed
themselves, Jason gave a short speech, thanking the university for the
scholarship and his friends and family for their support.
By the time the competition was
over, it was almost dinnertime. Mick had made arrangements far in
advance to close the restaurant for a private party in honor of the
winner, whoever it may be, and their family and friends. He was almost
certain it would be either Jason or Christy. He also made arrangements
for the chef to prepare a dinner of Lasagna and Fried Chicken with all
the side dishes and deserts and for the waitresses to serve.
dinner he made an announcement.
“ My dearest friends. Rona and I
can’t begin to tell you how very proud we are of our son and how much
we appreciate all of you being here tonight to help us celebrate. We
have a surprise gift for Jason but it is to big to bring inside so, we
would like for everyone to follow us out into the side parking lot.”
When they got to the parking lot,
there was something huge under a tarp. Mick, all smiles and quite proud
of himself, asked Jim and two other men to help unveil the surprise.
When they removed the tarp, there
sat an old school bus. It had been painted silver and on either side, in
huge purple letters, it read, THE PURPLE HEART.
Mick was beside himself. “ It was
supposed to say THE PURPLE HEART BAND! You can’t get anyone to do
anything right these days. Oh, well never mind, I’ll have it taken
care of. Come see the inside.” he said to Jason.
The inside was painted a light
purple. Three bunks had been installed. One at the very back and one on
either side, with plenty of storage space under each. Behind the drivers
seat was an apartment-sized refrigerator that ran either on batteries or
electricity. On the other side there was a small table with three
chairs. The windows had bamboo shades and the carpet was the color of
Now you and the boys can go to your gigs in style.” Said Mick.
“ I don’t know what to say, mom,
dad, except thanks, it’s too much.” Jason said as he gave both
parents a big hug.
The boys in the band all got busy
and sent out fliers to every club in the state. They would play for
birthdays, weddings, picnics and fairs. It was not long until they were
swamped with work.
Pat and Jim gave Christy the choice
of going to work at the bank, learning the reality business from Pat or
finding something on her own.
“ All I am interested in is making
as much money as I can over the summer. Because; dear parents, in the
fall, I plan to go into nurses training.
I have already applied and been
accepted at St. Andrews Hospital. So, what kind of pay do you offer?”
and Jim looked at each other in surprise.
“ Honey, you never gave us a clue
that you wanted to be a nurse. Said Jim. We just assumed you would go on
with your music, perhaps becoming a teacher. This is quite a
“ Well, I didn’t know what I
wanted until just recently. I’ll keep up with my music and learn all I
can. In the meantime, I have a couple of kids wanting lessons. I can do
that on weekends and in their homes, to save you all the screeching.”
“ Yes, we’ve had our share of
the screeching. Laughed Pat. But seriously, Hon, don’t you know we
will help pay your tuition?”
Of course, mom, but I want to help. I don’t want you to do it all.”
Jim put his arm around Pat’s waist
and said, “ Come here, you gorgeous woman and let me thank you for
giving me such a beautiful and wise daughter.”
And I thank you for the same.” she replied.
Oh, you two! I’m getting out of here so you can be alone.”
Christy went to work for the Liberty
Savings and Loan at one of the branch offices where they just happened
to have an opening. She would have three weeks orientation.
Jason and the band toured the state.
They were even hired to play the state fair.
They didn’t get home often but
when they did, he and Christy made up for lost time, spending every
minute together, talking over plans. When the fall rolled around and it
was time for school, Jason proposed marriage. Christy accepted. He told
her his plans had been changed. He had thought most of his life to be a
professional musician but that would require a lot of travel. Now he
wanted to make a home for Christy and have children more than anything
so he was changing his major to business management. Possibly go to work
for his dad and eventually take over or start a restaurant of his
own and give the old man some competition.
Four years passed during which time
they saw each other as often as possible.
After graduation, Christy went to
work for St. Andrews. Specializing in pediatric nursing.
Jason went to work for his dad,
doing everything from sweeping the floor to running the dishwasher and
playing the piano each evening for the dinner crowd.
They both saved their money. It was
their plan to buy a house before they were married.
When they had saved enough for a down
payment, plus furnishings, Pat helped them find a nice, two bedroom,
bungalow in a nice neighborhood. Unbeknown to them, Jim and Pat bought
the house and sold it to them at a reduced price, knowing they would
refuse the help if they offered.
They marched down the aisle on a
beautiful Sunday morning with their family and all their friends in
attendance. The reception was held at The House of Rona. Their parents
wanted to go together and send them to Paris for their honeymoon but
they preferred to spend it in their new home, so, they were given the
After three years of marriage,
Christy gave birth to beautiful twin boys. She left the work she loved
at the hospital to stay home and be a mother.
retired and left Jason in charge of the restaurant.
retired from the bank and helped Pat sell houses.
Tom and Joe all married and had families.
Every Saturday night after closing
hours, they meet at The House of Rona, play music and talk of days and
nights when they toured in The Purple Heart.
Purple Heart is still going above and beyond the call of duty.
It sits in the back yard of Christy
and Jason’s home, under the shade of a huge Elm tree. It has been
converted into a playhouse for the twins and their little sister. They
load their toy instruments and pretend they are going on tour.
Occasionally, they play a concert for a select group of devoted fans,
gathered around the picnic table. Christy, Jason, Pat, Jim, Rona and
Mick. And, of course, their Aunt Jill who followed in the footsteps of
her idol and is now Head Nurse in the pediatric department of St.
is sweet for the Cooper’s and the Micelli’s.
Ó Lora Cox