Posted in A Day In the Life, Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?, Storytelling

The Tale of How the Governor Came to Be

In the mid-1960’s in South Denver, a short distance from the apartment where my mother and I lived, was a hotel on Colorado Boulevard. I think it was called Writer’s Manor. Or maybe it was Riter’s Manor. “A fancy place,” my mom called it. They had a large dining room in which all the tables were covered in white tablecloths, each graced by a small vase of fresh flowers. At one end of the room, a wall of windows overlooked an inviting swimming pool. The first time that I went there, I couldn’t stop looking at the pool. I longed to be in that water in the hot afternoon sun. The pool was, disappointingly, only for hotel guests.

Two glasses with iced tea with lemon and ice on the wooden table

On this day, my mom created an outing for us: we got dressed up and went to the hotel dining room where we were going to order banana splits. My mom was creative in the ways in which she entertained me. She worked during the week, and weekends were the times I got to see her the most. We didn’t have a car to go places, just the bus. There were no trips to the mountains or lakes like my other friends, but she tried hard to come up with things that were not just fun, but affordable. This is one of the reasons I still love summer so much: it feels like time for fun.

            Mom had insisted that I wear gloves. She was a woman who had watched one too many Joan Crawford movies. I didn’t think that gloves were cool, but I put them on anyway, and we walked to the hotel on that hot summer day. I can’t remember the dress I wore, but during those times, almost everything I owned was an A-line cut, and I was partial to little flowers, so I imagine myself in a sleeveless flowered dress, wearing uncomfortable patent leather flats, inappropriate for walking, but perfect for a formal dining room, and those stupid little white gloves.

            I was sweating by the time we got to the hotel. Still, I remember being excited about getting to see the swimming pool again, and I was excited about ordering a banana split in the hotel dining room. Years later, I realized my mother probably couldn’t afford to buy us lunch there, but at twelve, I was very enthusiastic about banana splits — not having lunch made no difference to me. We were led to one of the tables, and I told her I was thirsty.

            A waiter came by and poured water into what I observed to be grown-up glasses. The glasses had stems, not like the glasses at home that were short and squat.

            “May I bring you ladies an Arnold Palmer?” the waiter asked.

My mother nodded. “Would you like one?” she asked me.

Yes, please,” I answered. And then as soon as the waiter was gone, I asked, “What’s an Arnold Palmer?”

            “Half iced tea and half lemonade,” she said, and smiled.

            I felt grown-up and proud to be with my mom. I felt special sitting in the beautiful dining room all dressed up with her. And I loved her for her making me feel that way.

            Disappointingly, the Arnold Palmers didn’t come in the kind of grown-up glasses I’d hoped for. There was no stem. Still, I felt very grown up drinking one. As with all things I remember, it’s not so much the thing itself, as it is the feeling tone that lingers in the heart and mind. Sitting in that fancy dining room with my mom, wearing those stupid white gloves—it was all just kind of perfect.

            After the Arnold Palmer came the banana splits, and I ate mine slowly and carefully, as a grown-up would, careful not to let any ice cream or topping spill on my A-line dress or the white linen tablecloth.

            Years go by, and I’m middle-aged, married, and sitting in a lounge chair on my deck next to a girlfriend. We’re recalling summer stories from childhood, and I tell her about the hotel, the Arnold Palmers, and the banana splits.

            “Arnold Palmers,” she says. “Those sound so good right now. We could make some.”

            “I have lemonade, but I only have green tea.”

            We look at each other.

            “What the hell . . .” I say. I get up and mix them—half green tea and half Knudsen’s lemonade. I pour the mixture over ice and stick in a couple of paper straws.

            “Ta-da, Arnold Palmers,” I say, holding out the glasses to my friend.

            She takes a sip. “They’re good,” she says. “What’d you make these with, again?”

            “Lemonade and green tea.”

            “I guess they’re not really Arnold Palmers,” she says.

            “No, but close enough.”

            “Who else do we know named Arnold,” she asks.

            “Schwartzenager?”

            “The governor of California?”

“That’s it. I dub this drink ‘The Governor,’” I say.

And that’s how The Governor, made with green tea, came to be. Gone are my banana spilt days, but I often enjoy like a grown-up glass into which I can pour The Governor on a hot afternoon.

The Governor:

Steep 3 Tzao Zen Green Tea bags in a 2-quart pitcher. This is best if you steep this in the sun all day, instead of boiling water and pouring it over the tea bags. The tea will turn a light greenish-gold color after about 6 hours. Refrigerate it overnight. The next day pour ½ glass of green tea over ice. Fill the rest of the glass with Knudsen’s lemonade, which is sweetened with fruit juice rather than white sugar. You won’t need any additional sweetener. This is the perfect tea for any summer afternoon.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Something of My Father

Businessman father giving hand to a childHe cut an imposing figure, tall with a shock of thick dark hair. He smoked a pipe and wore tweed jackets. We met on several occasions–a few summer visits in which he took me to my first baseball game, my first ballet and introduced me to the wonders of the Smithsonian. He was most comfortable when he was teaching me something, an ongoing discourse about this subject or that. During the work week,  he was fine leaving me alone to fend for myself; five dollars from his wallet and directions to the swimming pool. I knew the lifeguards at the swimming pool better than I knew him. Or maybe they knew me better than he did. Either way, I was at home with my ten-year-old independence and confident in my ability to order breakfast at the counter of the local diner.

Once he took me to see a movie, “The Ten Commandments,” with Charlton Heston. I am not sure why he chose that movie. He wasn’t much for religion. As the screen bursts into a flaming sunrise, the voice over pierces the silence: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.” My father leaned over and whispered into my ear, “Promise me you will never believe that, Stephanie.” And I nodded my head in agreement, knowing that I was lying, because I already believed in something bigger, in sunrises that were miracles, in conversations I had in the dark with the God of little children. But I wanted and needed to have some sort of agreement with him, something that made me feel that I was his daughter.

As I grew older, I saw him less and less. From the age of twelve until I was twenty-four I only saw him once. It is an archetypal story of the un-fathered daughter, who did not know male protection and was left with a discontented curiosity in lieu of  relationship. To this day it is easier for me to “do it myself” than to rely upon anyone, even my husband who tries to do things for me and often ends up being thwarted by my unrelenting and fierce independence.

My father has been gone for over 30 years now. My brother, sister and I wrote our pieces for the funeral, shook hands with people we didn’t know that had worked with him and gave some semblance of being a family, concealing well the fractures and fault lines of what had long ago broken. It was especially difficult for my sister who chose to sit in her hotel room alone the night after the funeral, without sleep, grappling with the grief of having known him well and now missing what would never be again. As for me, I drank straight shots of tequila with beer backs at the local bar with my brother and we did not share our thoughts or feelings. The next morning I was so numb that I didn’t even experience the effects of a hangover.

It’s odd to me that I never really felt angry with the father who was hardly there. Instead I sometimes felt sad. I keep a photograph of the two of us taken when I was twenty-five and he was sixty-something. In it I am leaning against his broad chest. He smiles directly into the camera, an arm around me, holding his pipe. My eyes are closed and I am nestled against him, a brief lingering of surrender and unrequited hopefulness.

I unwrapped a picture today. It is a charcoal drawing by an unknown artist. As my siblings and I went through my father’s things at his death, I found four such pictures. I remember the story that he told me about being in Germany in 1945, just after the war and how he made friends with a group of artists. He purchased pictures like these for Hershey bars and cigarettes. I had the four pictures framed, but it is really only one that speaks to my heart. The drawing is of small cabin in the woods and two deer are grazing at its front. The picture is serene and peaceful and I can I am taken by the artist that captured it in midst of decimation that the war had wrought. I imagine my father, buying this particular picture, a young soldier, touched by the peace that in conveyed. I would like to believe that what compelled him to long for such beauty among the rubble is within me too. It is the “something” of my father.