Sunday, November 20, 2011

Letter to My First Grand-Daughter


Oh, Zadie, you are only one-day old, but you’re already changing my life. I’m sitting in a Fado club in the Barrio Alto of Lisbon and thinking that I’m going to take you here some day. When you’re 12 or 15 or some such age, we’ll go to Europe and take the cable car up the Lisbon hills and go to Club Luso. We’ll sit at our table, enraptured by the beautiful sounds of the three guitars and the sensuous singers whose words we might not catch, but whose meaning is clear: “This life is full of beauty and wonder and sounds, dances, songs that grew in Portuguese soil, but can touch anyone’s heart.” Maybe they’ll invite me up on stage again as they did tonight holding a wreathed arch and I’ll do tricky little dance steps that will surprise the musicians and impress the tourists and maybe you’ll be proud of your old Grandpa and not roll your eyes the way my children were required to do. We’ll take a cab back and chat with the amiable and knowledgable taxi driver who will tell us, as mine did tonight, how the ukelele came from Madeira to Hawaii and how Music, Mathematics and Metaphysics are the three most important things in life. Then we’ll walk into the Hotel Opera, where two men will be singing arias in the lobby and you’ll think, “This is definitely not the Ramada Inn!”

The next day, we’ll walk along the river looking at the bridge so much like the Golden Gate Bridge and if the future unfolds as I would like it to, I’ll show you where the monument to Columbus used to be until people finally decided to not pay homage to such a cruel man or celebrate such a greedy bid for power and money that caused so much harm. Perhaps we’ll go to the coast and I’ll tell you the story of how your great-Aunt Ginny and great-Uncle Jim slept on a beach in a sheltered cove in their newlywed European year abroad and then were awakened with water lapping at their sleeping bags, realizing just in the nick of time that the tide was coming in and narrowly escaping.

Or we’ll head north to Galicia and I’ll show you the park where Grandma Karen, Aunt Talia, your Mom and I had a perfect picnic lunch on our journey through Spain, close to the spot where I abruptly stopped our rented car and jumped out to see the Galician bagpipers and then show them my Bulgarian one. Who knows? Maybe by the time we take our trip, I’ll have actually learned how to play that thing decently.

You see what you have done? Given me something new to dream about and made me giddy with anticipation of sharing with you all the things I love in this world. The trip to the Cherry Bowl Theater in Michigan will have new meaning with you in the back seat ready for your first Drive-In Movie. I can’t wait to take you on my favorite bike ride in Salzburg or ride the Staten Island Ferry after visiting my old home in New Jersey or go see the elephants at the Pooram Festival in Kerala, the place your mother was named for.

I’m reserving tickets at the Castro Theater for the Sound of Music Sing-a-Long, anxious to show you the Calaveras Big Trees where we all used to camp with 60 SF School kids, ready to take you to the chicken place in Madrid after a day in the Prado. Oh, the places we’ll go and the sights that we’ll see!

So little Zadie, hope your first day was a happy and healthy one. Drink your milk, get plenty of sleep and grow up to be big and strong and ready to travel with your Grandparents. Maybe if your Mom and Dad are nice to us, we’ll let them come along too.

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