Thanks to everyone who commented on Sketch Pad.
Funny thing about this blog: it gets a gazillion hits every day. Email floods my inbox. But very few readers make comments. I wouldn’t think this odd, but I read so many blogs where the most dunderheaded pronouncements will garner dozens of reactions.
I write smut like a motherfucker, but if it weren’t for dear Avah and some other stalwart devotees, my blog would seem populated by myself, my battered thesaurus and a few tumbleweeds. Where’s the love, people?
It’s the first Friday night of the new academic year. Collie and Lillie are being schooled in the fine art of playing hooky by “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” while Jason is sleeping over at a friend’s place after his third straight afternoon of after-school pick-up football in the park.
I believe my twelve-year-old son has matured into the peer socialization phase of adolescence. Or, to put it another way, I can’t be far from debating such venerated topics as, “I don’t have to do that! Michael’s mom never makes him do anything!”
Collie wanted a pair of back-to-school shoes with wheels in the heels, called Heelys. Wheels are forbidden during school hours, but before and after, he pops them in and glides the sidewalks like the Silver Surfer. He will no doubt be discovered and spirited away by Shaun White, if Peter Martins doesn’t snatch him first.
Lillie’s second grade teacher, Ms. Lowenthal, happens to have been Jason’s fourth grade teacher. In the public schools, fourth grade social studies focuses on local history, a subject near and dear to my heart, so Ms. Lowenthal and I have had many discussions of New York City history.
Apparently, her interest carries over to teaching her new charges.
As we rode the bus home from school, Lillie said, “Did you know that so many Irish people died because there were no potatoes? Isn’t that so sad?” Her voice was a solemn whisper.
“In fact, I did know that,” I said. “Did you learn that in school today?”
Lillie nodded. “Ms. Lowenthal said that. She said a lot of people came from Irish because there were no potatoes there. And now they are all babysitters.”
“It’s true,” she insisted. “Four kids in my class have babysitters who are from Irish.”
“They are Irish, smart girl,” I smiled. “But they are from Ireland.”
“Ireland, right, right.” Lillie looked out the window. “Potato. Puh-TAA-to. Potato, potato, potato.”
“You like that word, huh?”
“It’s funny.” She paused a moment, thinking. “Hey Dad, how do they cook potatoes in Irish?”
“Ireland, honey. Well, these days, they cook them lots of ways. But back in the old days, I guess they boiled them or baked them. I think they made potato pies, maybe? Maybe they mashed them. They probably didn’t cook french fries or potato chips, because I’m not sure those things were invented yet.”
Lillie nodded, not really listening to my extemporaneous and unschooled lecture on potatoes and their history. She hummed, and then repeated, “Potato, potato, potato.”
She sat looking out the window as I finished and watched the streets go by.
“And Dad!” she suddenly exclaimed. “Did you know the world’s oldest lady lives in New York?”
“She does? I didn’t know that.”
“Yes! She’s so old and no one is taking care of her. Isn’t that so sad?”
“That is sad. Why wouldn’t anyone take care of . . . oh wait, do you mean Brooke Astor?” I recalled recent tabloid headlines about a lawsuit concerning the care of the aged philanthropist and socialite.
“Yes, yes!” Lillie replied, bouncing in her seat. “Book Astor.”
“I didn’t realize she was the oldest living woman, but yes, she’s very old—I think she’s a hundred and four or something.”
Lillie laughed. “That’s so old! Does she have any hair?”
“She had hair the last time I saw her.”
Lillie looked at me. “You know Book Astor?” Her voice was low and serious.
“Well, I’ve met her, yes. She was very nice.” I wasn’t sure how to explain that Brooke Astor has spent eight decades or so meeting everyone in New York City. She was bound to get to me at some point, even if she was just working her way through the phone book.
Lillie’s eyes were locked on mine. “Dad, can we please meet her? Please?”
When we arrived at home, Lillie asked me to Google a photograph of Brooke Astor.
“Is that your friend?”
“Yes, that’s Brooke Astor.”
Lillie looked for a moment. Then she scooped up Boo Boo and went off to zone out to television. When she grew bored, she arranged her stuffed animals into a classroom. She asked me if she could “borrow” two Idaho baking potatoes from the pantry.
With a red waterproof marker, she drew a face on each potato, designating one a boy and the other a girl. The girl potato was given a red dot on her forehead.
“Everyone, pay attention,” she said, holding the girl potato before her menagerie. “This is Book Astor, the world’s oldest lady. She is Dad’s best friend.”