ON JULY 4, 1955, the New York Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox seven to four. Marilyn Monroe graced the front page of Tempo magazine, which could be purchased for fifteen cents. Marilyn’s bathing suit was labeled with the words, “Beware of Danger.”
It would be seven years before I would have any reason to pay attention to any of these happenings. The day of spectacular fireworks and bodacious flag flying was also my tenth birthday, and we were moving to a new house in a brand new neighborhood, not one of those converted barracks.
I was enlivened with the prospect of a new start, a new life away from the house without grass and the accusing eyes of the neighbors who knew of the shame within the house with no paint. I can recall with great accuracy the desire to recreate myself, to make a new me to match the new neighborhood. I thought and thought about who I could become and how to go about creating an acceptable me. I wanted people to smile when they saw me instead of withering their faces up like a prune.
The event that began to ease the tight bands around my growing young heart was the stranger that my mother brought home one night when I was ten. Donald was his name, and she announced without ceremony that he was now our new dad. A young man in his twenties, fresh out of the Navy, he had snappy brown eyes that seemed to dance with gold sparkles when he laughed.
We would soon learn that he laughed often and loud. So loud, in fact, that my grandmother said that he could wake up the dead. Grandmother had many odd sayings like “wake up the dead.” We grew to like Donald’s loudness, which was fun-filled and kind. Also, this new dad loved children—probably because, at only twenty-three, he himself was a like a big kid.
He often took me with him on his dry-cleaning route, and always managed to get me an ice cream treat without asking for anything in return. He frequently took my older brother and me to the mountains to shoot tin cans. This new dad could never understand why I was so intent on shooting the tumbleweeds, and he never learned of my shameful time with Doc.
It was he who moved us to our lovely new home. I grew to love and trust my new dad.