There was a song by The Carpenters called Close to You that played continuously on the radio the year I was sixteen. It came out over the summer and one of my strongest and glossiest memories of teen love comes packaged with that song. A couple, maybe they were college freshmen, were on a blanket next to mine on the beach and as Karen Carpenter sang about why the birds suddenly appear every time you are near, the pretty girl sang the words to her cute boyfriend as they cuddled in each other’s arms. If I heard that song right this minute I would still see her singing to him and him stroking her blonde hair. Just writing this conjures up the smell of Coppertone and salty air.
Daughter called last night and asked if I had a minute to talk. Of course I did.
DTR: So you know I’m transferring all my videos to DVD and I have to tell you I just had an out of body experience. I watched my bat mitzvah tape.
OSV: Hello, 1994! What was it like?
DTR: Well, first, I had no remembrance that it was so over the top. It was like a circus. I mean I know we lived in a competitive suburb and I went to some truly excessive parties that year, but really Mom, I didn’t remember mine being so crazy. One minute I’m watching a hundred people dancing with maracas in their hands, then I look up again and the maracas are gone and everyone’s in sombreros and Hawaiian leis. Then I’m up on the stage with the DJ singing Copacabana and flailing my arms like a lunatic. And what in the world was with that heavy New York accent? I sounded like something out of Goodfellas reading my Haftorah. I think I still had that awful palate expander in my mouth. It was like I was trying to speak Hebrew with a mouth full of plum pits. And why was I talking so fast? Where did I think everyone was running off to before I finished?
She made me laugh with her observations upon revisiting her 13-year-old self. Then we talked about all the friends we no longer see and the family members who are no longer here. She remarked that the whole videotaping process of handing the mic around to the guests so they can give a greeting for posterity always seemed foolish and banal to her. Now, with so many beloved relatives gone, hearing their voices and seeing their familiar gestures evoked a landslide of emotions. Watching her favorite aunt, the family’s theatrical Auntie Mame, cradle the mic, toss her head back and shout, “We love you, bat mitzvah girl!” made Daughter recall the games of hide and seek and chicken with cream of mushroom soup that were a hallmark of visits to her aunt’s house. The aunt who died too young; too soon to see her own daughter reach 13. Whose laugh could make the birds suddenly appear.
DTR: You know, I had no idea Aunt Mame had such a New York accent.
OSV: I hate to break it to you sweetie, but we ALL have New York accents.
DTR: Even now? No way. You sound perfectly normal to me.
Said Joe Pesci to Fran Drescher.
Daughter’s Fotos return home with her from frosty Boston