me to make my own Christmas cards. You told me people would love
to get a personally drawn card designed just for them, with no two
alike. You set up the card table from your Ladies Bridge Club and
let me use that to work on. I got so good at sketching, you never
had to tell me to stay inside the lines like you did when I was
even younger and had coloring books. You'd said, "For little girls,
there are no lines."
When I was about seven years old and invited to sing at a Fourth
of July party in a neighbor's back yard, you made a bouquet for
me. A red rose in the middle, encircled by small white flowers,
and an outer circle of small blue Japanese Irises. Though I never
told you how beautiful I thought it was, it is the one thing I remember
from that day and all the Fourth of Julys in my life.
Creating a garden went unnoticed and you had to ask, "Did you see
the new Azelea plants in front? Aren't they beautiful?" I said "Nice,"
and kept on walking. I had no idea of how hurtful that must've been
for you, when I could've stopped and admired the work you'd put
into beautifying that insignificant spot. I didn't understand then,
but I do now.
How I wish I'd listened more to those stories about New York at
the turn of the last century, the Depression, the Jazz Age, how
you and your sisters all slept crosswise in the same double bed.
You're gone now and I will never know those things that made up
your life. I didn't pay attention. You actually saw Seabiscuit race
in the 30s, but I can't ask you about it now; I missed my chance.
I didn't know then how much I'd want to know those things one day.
You were a self-educated woman, the best speller and grammarian,
could discuss history, current events, and every sport known to
man. "How do you know so much?" I remember asking. You said, "I
In those days, you read the New York Daily News, New York Herald
Tribune, New York Sun, New York Mirror, the Journal American, and
the Long Island Daily Press. Those are only the ones I remember.
You read fiction and non-fiction books. You listened to every baseball
game on the radio, and your favorite teams were interchangeable
from the New York Giants to the Brooklyn Dodgers to the New York
Yankees. You loved them all. I thought sports were boring, but you
flabbergasted all the uncles at Christmastime by knowing every prizefighter's
stats since, it seemed, the beginning of time.
You corrected my homework, spotted misplaced punctuation, and spelling
errors. You'd say of a misspelled word, "Get the dictionary." I'd
say,"If you know the answer, why don't you tell me?" You'd say,
"It won't stay in your mind if you're told, but it will if you get
in the habit of looking things up for yourself." Or I'd say "How
do you always know when the grammar is wrong?" and you'd say "It
doesn't look right." You always nailed it. I don't remember ever
telling you how smart I thought you were to know so much. I didn't
say it then. I'm saying it now.
Thank you a million times.
Isn't it ironic that I was always considered "Daddy's Little Girl,"
but the person I think about every day isn't him, it's you.
"A Balloon In Cactus"
- May 10, 2018 column