At age 7, I made the trip to the United States alone. From Buenos Aires to Miami took some 30 hours, I believe. I haven’t done the research to confirm that, but that is the figure I remember some adult stating long ago. It was a Pam Am flight and stopped like a milk train at every capital up along the western coast
of South America. After leaving Buenos Aires it came to Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru with the llamas at the airport; Quito, Ecuador; Bogota, Colombia; and then… I no longer remember. We reached Miami, Florida finally. This was my destination; the flight did not continue to New York City, so my father met
me in Miami. We would spend several days there and then fly to New York together.
But this entry to Miami stays with me. I looked out the small airplane window as we coasted to the gate and searched the roofline of the airport for my father’s silhouette. In those days, safety and terrorism were not issues. Roofs of airport buildings were not off limits. Peering into the dusky distance, I anxiously hoped for my father’s shape, to know that he was there on time, and that I was safe.
Waiting for my father was always a given. The times that I would be left to guard our suitcases in an appropriately named airport waiting room, were so numerous that they all blend into one. He would return with a stuffed animal or with a chocolate bar. But his shoes were suddenly well-shinned and the tell-tale smell of shoe polish told me where he had been. Gifts made it all okay, guess. But I would gaze in every direction waiting and waiting….so patiently. It was the not knowing how long that was the worst.
When he would say that he would be right back…what did that mean to him? To me it made little sense because he never came “Right Back.”
Little girl, so bright and shiny sat on the hard metal bench and swung her legs to and fro. Echo-y messages on the loudspeaker announce far off lands—comings and goings.
So many strangers talking unknown languages rushing by—
Alone, needing to pee; holding it in—and not. Where is he, that roaming Papa?
Here he is. A magazine and gone again. Wheee.
There he is! So far away. Out of reach.
Send her postcards, gifts and custom-made dresses… hire tutors and au-pairs; buy tickets to the theater.
Get the Countess of Tolstoy to inscribe her book for the child.
Giftwrap it in gold paper; no ribbon. Send it to Argentina. It takes months.
Who is keeping track of time?
Thirty hours on an airplane is like a lifetime. It is a lifetime.
Away, away. Alone. A way of life that no one takes note of. Who among the adults knows what her life is like, what she experiences, is fearful of, her hopes, anything. She is a lovely package that goes back and forth. She gets wrapped in gold paper (no ribbon) and fly Pam Am to keep her parents together in her
The little brain makes order of it all. Captures the languages and the meanings or lack thereof and makes it hers alone. A chocolate bar should keep terror at bay. But bitten fingernails betray the misery.
Dusk on Madison Ave. Getting darker. Horns honking, cars swerving, busses gasping. New York City in December. Lights twinkle everywhere. Crispness in the air and people bustling and rushing past. Rushing for bus, hailing taxis, Briskly walking. Home is the goal for most but we, my Papa and I open the taxi door and tumble into Georg Jensen’s for a gift buying session. My father needs to get some gifts; for whom I do not know. I am left gazing intently at very delicate blown glass animals while he finds his prizes and gets them wrapped in Silvery gray paper. Am I right? Is that the color of Jensen’s wrapping paper. What a strange thing to remember. Of course everyone knows that Tiffany has light turquoise boxes and paper and white cloth ribbons. I learned this week that the red star that Macy uses on all their packaging comes from the red star tattoo that the creator and owner sported.
What a scant assortment of things we archive from a lifetime. Can a lifetime amount to so little. I once calculated the amount of time I actually spent with my father. It was pitiful; and yet the impact on me is phenomenal… way out of proportion to the time together.
Milli Baskin comes to mind. I wonder what happened to her. She took me to see the movie Lilli with her daughter when she was 8. I think I was 8 when I first saw it. Why was that something I remember. Now I think that perhaps she, Milli actually may have taken me when I was 8. Oh dear my memory.
Why do I need to remember all this anyway? Why am I writing these fleeting memories. Is it for my children or grandchildren? Do they care?
Will they know me better when I am gone by reading this material?