In many ways my father was like so many other fathers. He was a great story teller. He loved to read to me. We had our favorite and I would crawl into bed with him and I would delight in reading after reading of "Ladybug Ladybug!" And in so many ways my father was so different from the rest. He was terribly formal. I don't remember him even owning a pair of jeans until I was a teenager! He ate fried chicken with a fork. Who does that?!! (Back in the 70s we would order such from time to time.) He would take me out for ice cream at the ice cream parlor that was around the corner from the apartment I lived in until I was 4 years old on Central Park West - before we crossed the park and moved over to the East Side. I remember strawberry ice cream with large chunks of real strawberries. Funny what our minds choose to remember!
My dad was my first Art History teacher. The only thing he ever insisted on in my youth was that I attend Sunday school. As a result my Sunday mornings were pretty much occupied. There was always an exception to the rule. I could always join him in his Sunday morning jaunt to the Met. The Met was (and still is) The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was a member and went there regularly. I think it was his favorite place in all of New York. It probably still is. We'd walk down Fifth Avenue, talking about this and that, whatever my father noticed and pointed out to me along the way... He was a great noticer - a great observer... He still is and this is probably where I get it from. I loved going places with him as he always showed me things I hadn't noticed. The walk to the museum was about 10 minutes, maybe longer since my legs were shorter. The museum's entrance was just over a half a mile from our home.
We'd walk up the museum steps, one of my favorite locations in the city, and into the grand building. We'd always head straight for the Impressionist section, a favorite of both of ours. We'd stand and marvel at the techniques and colors... We'd talk about the people and what they were doing, as though he was reading a story - and that's exactly what he was doing! He was reading the story that the painting was telling us. I simply adored the bronze Degas ballerinas. And I delighted in their poses. They reminded me of me, though with more grace.
I remember one particular Sunday not wanting to join him at the Met. I was practically dragged there; I went kicking and screaming... but I went. My father was determined that the day would not be a wash... he was determined to make it enjoyable even to the little girl by his side who was hell-bent on not enjoying herself. So there we were, in the Impressionist wing, standing in front of a large, colorful impressive painting and told me to count all the dots. It was my introduction to Pointillism. I looked at this ridiculously large tableau which seemed to be covered in millions and millions of little points, burst out into laughter and exclaimed "Daddy!" as though he was the silliest person in the world!
My father should have been a teacher. He would have been a brilliant teacher. Passionate about art and history, he would have excelled as an educator. Instead he chose a career in finance and was in private banking for a well-known bank. His offices were near my school and from time to time I visited him when I was older. I was less impressed by his title than the perks that came with it. His clients were all in the fashion industry and he worked with such well-known designers as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Izod/Lacoste, Anne Klein, Herver Leger, to name a few. Why was I impressed by this? In my pre-teen, Preppy Handbook days I had so many alligators on my clothes, that at summer camp I was dubbed "The Alligator Kid!" Then Lacoste made way for Polo. Wearing polo shirts in bright colors, collars up, with little polo players as an emblem became all the rage. My drawers became filled with these shirts. And then, as I became more fashionably aware, I too had my Calvin Klein jeans. Many of them. Granted, I looked nothing like Brooke Shields, who was just a year older, in them. As designers and their logo-clad clothing grew in popularity in the 1980s so did their price tags. My mother never would have allowed me to have these items had she needed to pay full price. My mother pays full price for nothing! I was grateful to my father... his clients allowed me to have a very hip wardrobe during my turbulent and highly influential teen years!
My father was a doodler. His doodles were wonderful. He was also a great letter writer. For part of my summer I went to camp in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. Every other day there was a letter or card in the mail from him. I adored Snoopy. My Snoopy went to camp with me (and everywhere else for that matter.) Dad always found and sent me the best Snoopy cards. His letters were also chalk full of information even if that information was to say that the city was hot and humid and not much was going on, he had a way of turning it into a short story!
He took me to sporting events and we always had the best seats as his bank sponsored most of these events. I didn't pay attention, for the most part, to the actual sport, I but soaked in the atmosphere and relished in my surroundings. For me it was more about being at the event and with my father, than the actual game itself. Whether watching basketball or hockey at Madison Square Garden, baseball at Yankee Stadium... it was about the energy and excitement in the air... the cheers, the jeers, the popcorn and hot dogs that were a treat to me, and it was about all the people around me. I've always been a people watcher! The only sport I loved to watch was tennis. I relished our court-side box seats (again, thanks to the bank) and sat glued to the tennis ball going back and forth. I believe I grew up with the generation of the best tennis players ever... Jimmy Connors, Yannick Noah, John McEnroe, Ilie Nastasie, Vitas Gerulitas, Bjorn Borg... these to me were the real tennis players. I preferred men's tennis to women's but Chrissy Evert and Martina Navratilova were fun to watch. And then there was the young Tracy Austin. She was my idol. I wanted to be like her. And how awesome it was to be court-side the day she took home the trophy as the youngest player to ever win the US Open!
Growing up in New York City was never something I took for granted. It was my normal; it was what I knew, but all the wonder and all that made my city special, would eventually shape me and mold me and make me the person I am today. Growing up in the city was amazing thing, and I never really stopped to think how much of a role my father played in all that...
Happy Father's Day, Dad!