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.