A very happy Father’s Day to all the great Dads out there! I hope you are getting some extra well-deserved love and pampering today!
I only knew my father for the first seven years of my life- when I was still in Poland- and he was very dear to me. In his honor, I thought I would post a short excerpt from my in-progress memoir, reliving some early memories of him:
Nothing was better than parading on the streets of Warsaw with my father. We walked, hands clasped, arms gently swinging, my five-year old feet scuttling to match his pace, my eyes alert for sweet shops but mainly fixed on him, my Tata, tall, dashing and jolly as a polka.
His eyes were lake blue and quick to wink. An expanse of shiny brow reached for his tea-colored hair, lightly streaked with gray and always neatly combed, especially when going out. His gently rounded nose, though pink-tinged with tiny broken capillaries, was none the less noble. His mouth, what a mouth! It could chirp a perfect whistle which made me jubilant, or suck up a raw egg which made me gag and run out of the room.
He had a song for everything and he sang with a husky baritone, like the swish of field grass in a lazy breeze. In between songs, jokes lined up on his tongue.
His whistling made me proudest of all. Such a champion he was that he even performed on the radio once.
“Teach me to whistle Tato,” I said, “please, I want to whistle just like you.”
“It’s easy. Just form your lips like you would to say the letter “u” and then blow some air out,” upon which my father puckered his lips and demonstrated a trill of such beauty and mastery that a songbird would have been slighted. My attempts, on the other hand, produced only harsh wheezes and a good amount of spit.
“Gently, gently,” he said.
I tried again. More spit.
“You’re soaking the floor.”
“Now listen,” he said. “You can whistle or you can giggle, but you can’t whistle and giggle.”
By then whistling was no longer an option. I was in the midst of an out and out, riotous, hilarious giggle fest.
Jaunty, impulsive, slightly reckless. That was my father. He surprised us with a television set – a rare item for communist Poland in the fifties. He took me to the circus, to the zoo, to the big park downtown for a ride on the carousel. He taught me silly songs. He told me if I was a good girl he’d bring me exotic fruits like pineapples, bananas, and watermelon and, by God, he managed to find them. But if I was bad, he warned, “I’ll send you off to the cygani.” They often rode in caravans down our street and he knew I was afraid of them. But my father’s eyes couldn’t tell a lie. They twinkled with a waggish glint so bright it put his gold tooth to shame. No way was I going to the gypsies.
On friday I received a letter with no return address. I opened it up and inside was this lovely hand-painted card:There was no note, but the sender clearly knew me and my pets- as this is a great depiction of our Mastiff, Jambo, and our cat, Sneak. Here is what they look like in real life:
Now, I immediately assumed this thoughtful card was from the super talented Julie Rowan-Zoch, who draws and paints all sorts of wonderful and whimsical critters. And, Julie knew that poor Jambo was recently diagnosed with bone cancer and that I was heartbroken.
I sent her an effusive thank you note to which she replied: “Sorry, Iza, I didn’t send you anything!…”
Dumfounded, I began to search for clues, and, sure enough, the postmark was from Minneapolis- not the city or state where Julie lives.
So, now I have a mystery to solve. Here are the facts of the case: This person is thoughtful. This person is a talented artist. This person knows me and my pets. In fact, this person knows that I have one dog and one cat and not the two dogs that appear on my un-updated website (our Aussie, Grommit, died a few years ago.) This person has my mailing address. This person either resides in Minneapolis, was visiting Minneapolis, or sent the card to someone in Minneapolis to send to me. This person is sneaky!
Peeps, can you help me solve this case?
Or, dear sender of this card, will you turn yourself in, so that justice- in the form of a proper thank you- can be served?
An illustrators contest? Over at Susanna Leonard Hill’s? What? A cover illustration for a fractured fairy tale? Let me be the judge of that… oh, wait, I am one of the judges! Yes, my colleague and friend, Lisa Thiesing and I will pick the winning entries. And Susanna always has great prizes. In fact, a portfolio review is one of them! So all you wonderful illustrators- hurry over to Susanna’s Illustrators Contest and find out all about it. You have three weeks. Have fun and good luck!