I Love Lucy

One morning, a few years ago, my husband wasn’t feeling well and stayed home.  Bored, he turned the TV on.  This is how he fell in love with Lucille Ball. 
Since that day, it has been easy to find him birthday, Christmas and Father’s Day gifts.  Between the  I Love Lucy seasons, the biographies and photo books, the possibilities are almost endless.
In June, when we prepared our yearly cross country trip from California to Maine, we chose to stop in Jamestown, NY, partly because it was conveniently located mid-way between Amherst, Mass. where we had planned a college visit and our home in Maine, partly because I had heard a lot about The Chautauqua Institution and wanted to visit.
When I researched Jamestown, I knew we had another good reason to stay there.  It is Lucille Ball’s birthplace.
My husband was thrilled to see Lucy’s face everywhere in town, from banners on Main Street announcing her upcoming birthday in August to the signs leading visitors to a museum dedicated to the show I Love Lucy.
Unfortunately, we were too late to visit the theater but as we planned our trip back to California, Jamestown again popped on the map.
We booked our reservation at the same hotel and last night went for dinner to a grill a couple of miles from the hotel.
The hostess and the waitress were soon intrigued.  What were two obviously foreign man and woman and two definitely very American teenagers doing in Jamestown on a late July rainy evening? 
After telling them where we are from, where we live and explaining that we drove cross- country, we had established a relation that allowed my husband to shoot a few questions as well.
“Are you from Jamestown?” he asked the young friendly waitress.
“Born and raised in Jamestown, that’s right, sir,” she said in her inimitable New-York accent.
My husband leaned forward. “So you share Lucy Ball’s birthplace.” It wasn’t a question but a statement.
“Absolutely,” said the girl with a nod. “Many people stop in Jamestown only to see the museum and all the memorabilia we have here in honor of Lucy.”
It was my husband’s turn to nod in a respectful agreement.  I’d rather visit Bruce Springsteen’s birthplace but I support my husband’s unconditional passion for the red haired actress. After all, she would be one hundred years old if she were still alive.  Besides, Lucy makes me laugh too.
“Did she really leave when she was three years old?”
My husband had been disappointed to learn that Lucy left Jamestown for Montana at a very young age after her father passed away.  He had imagined Lucy walking along the shady sidewalks and attending the elementary school that was still in session when we drove by in June. 
The waitress shrugged. “I’m not sure about that, sir,” she said.  “But she is buried here.”
Disbelief and hope washed over my husband’s face.  Disbelief because he thought he knew everything about Lucy and wasn’t she buried in southern California? Hope because if the waitress was right, Lucy was closer that he thought. 
Although my husband doesn’t particularly like cemeteries, I had the clear impression that he would make an exception for Lucy and spend the night searching for her tomb.
The waitress had cleaned our tables and brought the check when a middle-aged man walked to our table, an unlit cigarette in one hand, and a glass of white wine in the other.
“The waitress told me,” he started, “that you are French and travel cross country.”  He smiled, waiting for us to confirm or perhaps add more information.
We confirmed and my husband jumped on the opportunity.
“Are you from Jamestown?”
Our kids rolled their eyes but without much conviction. After all, their father is a fan of Lucy in the same way they are fans of Adele, Lady Gaga, Gun and Roses, and Shawn White to name only a few of the people they would die to meet.
The man nodded.  “Yes, I am from Jamestown, never went anywhere else.”
“Ah!” my husband exclaimed with enthusiasm. 
Why did he think that this man would know more about Lucy than our lovely waitress?
“So did Lucy Ball really leave when she was three years old?”
The man widened his eyes. “They have a lot of things about Lucy here,” he said. “But like I said, I don’t know much about the history of the town.”
Didn’t he say a minute ago that he was a Jamestown native?
“Is she buried here?” my husband insisted.
“Not a clue,” the man said and he smiled again, before heading outside to get a smoke.
When we left, we wished him a good night. 
“I don’t have any special place to go to,” he said. “It seems like I can spend a good night right there.”
We walked to the car and my daughter pitied the poor man thinking he was a homeless.  
“He wasn’t,” my husband said. “He just wanted to share another drink with us.”
It sounded like he would have agreed if only the man had hinted he knew something about Lucy. 
My husband honked when we passed the man sipping his wine and dragging on his cigarette.  He waved to the French Californian Mainers who drove cross-country and stopped in Jamestown to ask weird questions about Lucy Ball.
Back to the hotel, my husband paced the room that strangely faced a cemetery.
“So where is she buried?” I asked.
He could only have been on Google already since the answer popped in a second.
“It’s confusing,” he admitted. “Some say she is in California. Other sources say she’s here.” He paused. “I can’t believe I don’t know the exact answer. The book I read over the summer is serious and it says she’s buried in California.”  Another pause.
“The cemetery across the street is called Holly Cross,” I volunteered.  “The gates are still open but I think they will close soon.”
My husband didn’t say anything and instead surfed the Internet until he finally exclaimed, 
“Ah! Maybe the waitress was right after all.  Lucy was indeed buried in California but in 2002 her children had her body cremated and her ashes are now sharing her parent’s tomb here in Jamestown. And no, it’s not in the Holly Cross cemetery but in the one we saw when we went out for dinner.”
It was 10:30 p.m. and definitely too late for an expedition to a cemetery even to pay homage to Lucille Ball. 
None of us mentioned Lucy for the rest of the night, yet somehow I have the feeling that we might return to Jamestown.

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