I got an email from my dad last night. The subject line read, “Put this on your Flickr!” and the body of the email read, “Love, Dad.” So I opened the attachment and found this photo.
Aren’t I cute?? This is me, a month before I turned 3. I think it’s really obvious in this photo where Gracie gets her DNA. I asked her, “Who’s that, Grace?” and she replied, “That’s my Gracie!”
Not quite, Grace. But good guess.
I’m not quire sure where this is taken. I’m guessing, since there is a rail that I’m standing next to, that it’s at my father’s apartment. See, by this time, my parents were already divorced. My real mother had walked out on my dad and us kids back in March of 1981, and my parents were divorced not long after that. Virginia at that time would never allow a father to have custody of children after a divorce, so we went to live with our real mother. That meant that Dad had to get a place of his own.
I remember spending weekends with my dad, which surprises me because I remember very little else of my childhood before I went to live with him when I was six. I remember staying with him at his apartment, and I remember the rug he had in his bedroom — a furry tan rug with a black Greek-style border. He probably bought it in Greece, as he was going out to sea to Europe during this time.
I also remember spending the afternoon at the JCC. Back then, my dad wasn’t a practicing Jew, but he still was a member of the Jewish Community Center. He would take us there so we could go swimming. I had a red Speedo bathing suit that I thought was so cool. I thought I could swim forever in my red Speedo suit!! I also loved the fact it wasn’t a girly-type suit. It was just a plain red Speedo: no frills, no ruffles, no nothing. I loved it.
My dad put us in swimming lessons at a very early age. Maybe that’s why I remember the JCC so well, though I don’t remember the lessons themselves. But I do remember that I wasn’t afraid of the water — anything but!! I loved the water and always wanted to be in it. My sister chalks it up to my being a Pisces. But Grace is a water baby just like me, and she’s a Libra. Go figure!
I remember swimming in the deep end one day. I was probably in the six-foot depth (about two meters for you non-Americans), but I wasn’t afraid. I knew I could swim, and I loved the sensation of being buoyed up by the water.
Back then, my dad would go to the pool with us. I don’t remember if he ever got into the water, but I know he had his swim trunks on. That’s when trunks were really short, not the knee-length style they have now. I know he was wearing trunks because he was shirtless. I could see his chest hair, and his gold necklace with the Chai pendant nestling among the curls of his chest hair.
My dad was baptized probably 15 years ago. He never felt very Jewish, having never been raised in the faith. Once he met my stepmom, he began to go to church with her and decided to become a full member by being baptized. Once he was baptized, he no longer wore his Chai necklace. For him, it was a Jewish symbol — which I suppose it was. But then he never objected to me wearing my necklace that my grandfather’s cousins bought me in Israel one year.
I wonder where his Chai necklace is. At the very least, I would love to have it as a memory from my childhood, to remind me of those lovely afternoons spent with my dad at the JCC.