Need to do this quickly, since Tanya finally fell asleep, the little angel.
She’s my phantom daughter who gurgles up from the chilly depths of the Hudson from time to time. Never calls beforehand from her cell. (We had no cells in ”68, I’m sometimes re-amazed to re-alize that. How we even communicated is anyone’s guess.)
Anyway, she appears on the bed, fading up into Reality like a precocious ghost-ette who’s had enough of hiding behind the curtains saying ‘Boo’ in her little 7-year-old voice.
After the usual hugs, sobs, and of course ‘Fries with that’, it’s nap-time.
“Read me a story, daddy.” she always starts, halfway before completing the half-hour chore of ensconcing her lithe little body in the fuzzy pink foot-pajamas I keep in her box on the dresser. Yes, she has her own blanket too. And it must be arranged just so, for this little pea-princess, as if we’re doing a photo-shoot for Victoria’s ‘Little’ Secrets.
I said ‘quickly’? Scratch that, I guess. But after needing longer to read this story to the little punkette than Ms. Jane probably needed to write it, I feel both winded and long-winded. Here we go.
I had barely gotten out the title before cutey-pie had her way with the Author:
“Probably a blond. Probably from Texas?”
I toyed with ignoring that, but previous experience reminded me that to by-pass a question from my ‘audience’ would bring on a vitual Tarantella of ‘I’m jumping on the bed/ Just jumping on the bed, Daddy!’ until either the issue was addressed or an hour of ‘hyper’ finally diluted the toxins in her young blood-stream. I went with the easier path, sue me.
“Yes, dearie, she did grow up in Texas, so, like duh, of course she was blond.”
“Dyed blond” Tanya felt a need to clarify.
“But after she married Mister Healy, she moved to the UK, where she wrote most of her best work.”
“He of the motor-trade?”
Did I mention the child hasn’t missed a beat since her awesome start as a Young Zygote?
“Yes, sports cars. But their marriage foundered in the turbulent waters of the late 60s.” I broke the news to my daughter, glancing at the two of us a second in the bathroom-door mirror, and then thinking better of it.
“She moved to New York in the wake of the break-up.” I continued, aware that at the present pace we might be doing this for like, 4evah.
“The Big City! If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere..” Tanya started to sing. A bad omen for a guy with a bus to catch at 6 the next morning.
“No, darling, Corning, NY.” I interrupted my miniature Sinatra. And it worked. Kinda. Mid-chorus, she pulled the blanket over her face, not before making a face usually seen in autopsy photographs:
“OMG! Bell jars!”
I had intended to get to that part, but perhaps a bit more.. um… delicately.
“Yeah, Tanya-le, That’s where they found her. Inside a jar.”
“Sealed from the inside?” She wanted the details.
“She had a screwdriver?”
“It didn’t say that.”
“Tanya, who cares? The point is, she was very sad.”
“Like you were when I was born?”
Long Pause. What have I done, dear god, to merit both quality-time with a month-old aborted foetus, and, a Ghost-of-Christmas-Past visit from the Deep? And a ghost-ess so indescribably full of charms that I’d gladly live in chains for decades just to drive her to hockey practice even once.
“Yes kinda like that.” I fuzzed the question.
“So someone calls the Fire Department?” she moved the plot forward.
I breathed a silent sigh.
“Cool. They got all kinds of sexy power tools.”
Tanya, warm and happy, dark eyes large enough for a medium-weight tiger, pink in pink pajamas from Woolworth’s (and not ‘on sale’), under a pink blanket I’d rescued from the attic when my Mother died. and me never having had any doubts as to her gender-preference.
“Yup, Jaws-O-Life. You like that kinda thing?” I asked, neutrally, like we’d learned, stomping for McGovern in ’68.
“Awesome!” was all she said. I had a vision of her leading a band of bottom-dwelling Hudson Amazonian cadavers to construct, from derelict auto parts, an invincible machine-age automaton, which, guided by tossed-out Panasonic boom-boxes, wreaks holy retribution on Jersey mortals who thought that Planned Parenthood had offered a final solution. By super-human effort, I submerged the nightmare.
“So they pried and they pried, and they blew her house down?” Tanya wanted to know how it all ended.
“Yeah, beautiful, they left the Jaws in the GMC. And used Dollar General cheap Chinese-steel pry-bars to break the seal. She was breathing, but barely, when they opened the Bell Jar.”
“Holy Plath! You had me on pins and needles there for a second!” Tanya almost shouted, nearly waking my wife down in the salon. Prosaic to a fault, she has never believed my ‘fairy tales’, and that’s OK with me.
“So what’s ‘Predjudiced, Daddy?” Tanya asked. As simple a question as one could imagine, but with no equally short answer:
“It’s like, when people don’t like schvartes, even before they meet them.” I tried, as a first approximation.
” And that includes octaroons and mulattoes?” Tanya wanted to know the techie-facts on the subject.
“Yeah, I guess. Miss Jane had no objections, in principle, to being saved from her depressive angst by ‘her own kind‘, but by a Mister Darkie?! No way, Jose.”
“‘Darcy,’ I believe it says in the original.” Tanya pointed out, but exhibiting at least some signs of impending slumber.
“Well, the fellow in the picture in the Finger Lake Times, “Heroes save local scribbler“ sure looked more like an Obama than some washed-up Romney.” I told her, hope against hope that politics would bore the goddess to sleep. It worked wonders.
“So she was pried and predjudiced? Nice story, Daddy. I love you…. in spite of everything.”
“Leila tov, matoki.” (‘good night, sweetheart’) I kissed her face.
Now I just need to try to fall asleep myself.
For OBL, an inspiration always.