Getting a job in the theatre profession was easy, but it didn’t ensure Jeri’s success. She had to start at the bottom.
“Of course the studio hired me. My aunt was the actress Virginia Fields, who’d just been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. My mother was Penelope Junkett. She wasn’t as well known as Aunt Virginia, but it wasn’t like she was a total unknown. And then there was Daddy. He had fame in his own right as a musician and was doing fairly well as an actor. He was getting bit parts all over town, mostly in commercials.”
“Most of my early career was spent fetching and carrying for producers and directors. I was pretty much a gofer. I knew I’d work my way up eventually, but I had make the studio executives see that I was at least as talented as the rest of my family.”
Hannah Fields, Jeri’s cousin, moved in with her and Mickey while she was attending medical school.
“We gave her the spare room. It was supposed to be my room when Aaron got older, but I was still sleeping in the same room as him. Eventually, we planned to add on another room upstairs, but not until he got older.
Hannah needed a better place to live than some cramped apartment while she was working so hard to become a doctor. Residency and internships are extremely time consuming.”
The two cousins remained close. When they had free time, they often spent it together.
“For single girls, we hardly ever dated. Hannah actually had a boyfriend from Bridgeport, but she hadn’t seen him since she moved back to Twinbrook for medical school. I knew that she missed him, but her career was important to her.
As for me, it was just as hard to date as a single mother as an adult as it was to get boyfriends as a teenager. I always had to think of Aaron.”
“It was hard enough to go to work every day and leave Aaron in the care of a baby sitter. At least I didn’t have to send him to daycare! We had enough money to hire a sort of nanny for him.
But when I was home, I tried to spend as much time with him. I didn’t want him to grow up with an absent parent like I had.”
Though Hannah was living at their house, she didn’t have a lot of time to help Jeri care for her young son.
“Hannah was always studying or working on a project for work. She did a lot of research.”
Mickey, on the other hand, was trying to be more of a help. Since becoming an actor, he had settled down.
“Daddy was getting older. I think it made him more reflective. He remembered his promise to me when Aaron was born. He tried to be there for both of us like he said he would.”
But Mickey still partied a lot. His own birthday was celebrated at one of the local pubs.
“It was a huge party for both him and Uncle Danny.”
Most of the family were able to come to Twinbrook for the celebration. There were also some of Mickey and Jeri’s co-workers and friends at the party.
“I wasn’t a recluse at that time. I had friends. There were men I thought were interesting. It’s just that I didn’t really have a lot of time for dating!”
It wasn’t until Jeri saw her cousin Hannah with her boyfriend, that she began to give dating more than a passing thought.
“I didn’t pay that much attention to my lack of a love life until Hannah’s boyfriend came to Twinbrook. His name was Rodger Long. I’d never met him while I was in Bridgeport.”
Rodger came to Twinbrook just before Aaron’s 6th birthday. He was invited to one of Mickey’s many backyard parties.
“I remember when Hannah saw him. Daddy kept it a surprise from her, so she was extremely excited. She leaped into his arms and then proceeded to kiss him so deeply that most of our guests were hooting and hollering in encouragement.”
Hannah began to spend all of her free time, what there was of it, with Rodger.
“I tagged along like a third wheel. I was happy for Hannah, but I really wanted to have a boyfriend of my own. I realized that it was time for me to start dating again.”
Dating wasn’t easy for Jeri.
“My first foray into the dating scene was probably not the best. I was set up on a blind date by Hannah. He was a guy she worked with at the hospital. We met at the Brightmore and were supposed to be on a double date with Hannah and Roger.
He was a good looking guy named Frank, and I was initially pretty excited about it.”
“Of course I wasn’t going to keep the fact that I had a son a secret. But maybe I shouldn’t have brought it up to Frank within the first twenty minutes of our date. Frank went off to get us both a drink immediately after. When I told him I also didn’t drink, there really wasn’t much for us to talk about.”
Because of her father’s drinking problems and her own brush with alcohol and bubbles, Jeri had made the decision to avoid both.
“I tried to explain things to Frank, but I think my explanations just made things worse. Who wants to date a woman with a kid and an alcoholic for a dad?”
A few more failed dates followed.
“People liked to set me up on blind dates, but sometimes the guy stood me up. I know blind dates are pathetic, but at least if you agree to go on one, you should show up, right?”
After one such failed blind date, Jeri met Mario Bertoni, a bouncer at the club she frequented.
“Mario was a nice guy. I knew him from coming into the Brightmore all the time. But I’d never really talked to him, you know?”
When Jeri’s date didn’t show up, she and Mario did start to talk.
“He saw that I was was feeling down, so he came up and offered to get me a drink. I said no, of course, but he stayed to chat with me anyway.
‘Why do you always go on these blind dates?’ he asked me when I explained what had happened.
‘It’s better than being alone,’ I answered. ‘How else am I going to meet people? All I do is work and go home and take care of my son.’”
Mario and Jeri spent the entire night talking.
“He neglected his duties pretty badly. Luckily the club wasn’t that popular that night. Later, I told him that he was the best date I’d ever had. I wasn’t joking, either. He told me that he was glad I’d had a good time. Then I gave him a hug.”
“Then he took that opportunity to turn my hug into a kiss…the most passionate kiss I had had since I became a mother. I was reminded what it felt like to be a woman being held by a man.”
With her passion ignited, Jeri made the mistake of letting things with Mario get out of hand.
“I shouldn’t have done it. I know that, but Mario asked me to wait around until he was off shift. Then he invited me back to his place. In the elevator, we kissed again and it was so hot! I didn’t object when Mario hit the stop button. A little elevator woohoo was what I needed, but then the elevator doors opened.”
Unfortunately, Jeri’s elevator shenanigans were caught on camera by the paparazzi.
“I should have known better. Paparazzi have been a part of my life forever. They follow Daddy around and there’s always one or two of them near our house. I should have known.”
Jeri gave up blind dates and going to clubs after the fiasco that happened when it became known that she’d had sex in an elevator with a bouncer. Her career hadn’t taken off that strongly before that incident, but the negative publicity was not a help.
“I guess I wasn’t famous enough for any publicity to do me good. I just had to lay low and hope it all blew over.”
She wouldn’t have dated again at all if not for the attempted robbery at her house. The robber was caught by a young policeman named Walter.
“Walter stopped the robbery, checked our house to make sure we hadn’t lost anything, and then he did the craziest thing…he asked me out!”
Walter and Jeri went out a few times. He was a huge music fan, knowing pretty much every album that Mickey and the Fields Five had ever done.
“Walter was really into my dad. I think that’s why he asked me out at first. He took me to a show at the theatre, but we talked a lot about Daddy and my aunts and uncles. He seemed to think it was cool that my family was so close.”
Jeri’s relationship with Walter lasted a few months.
“I enjoyed spending time with Walter, but his job made getting together with him difficult. We went out a few times, but those times were not consistent. We both realized that things weren’t going to work out. I think he was more disappointed in losing such a connection to my dad than he was at losing me.”
Jeri didn’t have another boyfriend after Walter, choosing to concentrate more on her work and on raising her son.
“I could have dated other actors, but most of the time those guys were more interested in what I could do for their career than they were in me. I wanted a nice stable man. I wanted a family man.”
That’s when Jeri met Phillip Smith. He was a repairman.
“What’s hotter than a guy wearing a heavy tool belt who knows how to use his tools to fix your dishwasher?”
“I am the one who asked Phillip out. I thought he was handsome. He fixed the dishwasher and I offered to make him dinner. That first time, he said he couldn’t stay, but agreed to take a rain check.”
Jeri didn’t let him back down the second time she asked.
“I enjoyed spending time with him. We talked about the house and how I wanted to add an extra room to the second floor for when Aaron got older.
‘I could help you build that,’ he said. I thought he was joking, but he was very serious. So I agreed that he could help me build the addition.”
“Phillip did other projects for me as well, like fixing my shower. I loved it that he was so handy. He was so serious, I didn’t think he really liked me, but I couldn’t stop asking him to come over.”
But Phillip wasn’t as indifferent to Jeri as he seemed. He always agreed to come over no matter what Jeri asked him to do.
“Finally, I invited him to stay over after fixing something or other, I forget what. I made him dinner again and then invited him to soak in my hot tub. I used it as an excuse to get closer to him. I decided to just kiss him. If he put me off, I would leave him alone. If he returned my kiss, I’d know that he liked me.”
“I guess he liked me. We didn’t break that kiss until we were upstairs outside the door to my new bedroom, which he’d built for me.”
Jeri and Phillip were inseparable after that.
“He was the best boyfriend! He came over every night and played with Aaron while I fixed dinner. People would be surprised at how domestic my life is. I enjoy making dinner for my family and listening to them laughing and playing together.”
Phillip even joined Jeri and her family for the birthday party for little Aaron.
Most of Jeri’s immediate family was there. Even her youngest cousins, Tad—the son of Sherona and Kristopher King, and Fred Fields—Hannah’s youngest brother, were there. Both of the teenagers spent most of the time in the hot tub, but that was ok with Jeri.
“It was so nice just to have everyone present. Hannah, Roger, all of my aunts, my cousins and my dad. Everyone. I know that Aaron won’t remember it much, but a family party is always special.”
Not long after Aaron started school, Hannah Fields was finishing up her internship and her long-time boyfriend, Roger Long, asked her to marry him.
“I was so jealous of Hannah. Not that I’d been dating Phillip for as long as she and Roger, but I really wanted to get married!”
Phillip and Jeri talked about marriage, but both felt like they needed to make sure that Aaron would be ok with the situation.
“Phillip was very concerned about Aaron’s feelings. That was one of the things I loved about him. He felt that Aaron needed to get to know him better to determine whether or not Aaron wanted him as his father.”
Luckily Jeri’s son and her future husband got along very well.
“They had common interests. Aaron was a studious boy who loved chess. I didn’t even know how to play, but Phillip taught him. The two of them also liked to do more athletic things. I hated athletics except what I had to do to maintain my figure.”
When Phillip eventually did pop the question, of course Jeri said yes.
“I had no doubt that Phillip was the man for me.”