May 03, 2014

Jessica Raine

Jessica Raine

The vicissitudes of getting old are linked to the mystical innocence of childhood as one daydreams the precious time away. I’m a daydreamer par excellence, and lately I’ve been thinking nonstop about my daughter. She’s getting married this week and I’m off to London for the festivities. Solipsist that I am, it’s nice to think of others for a change. It’s the nature of prestidigitation to mix one’s self and one’s children—I’ve got one of each—and I thank my stars that there’s only one bride, as I read with amusement that three gals in Massachusetts exchanged vows, although no state in America has yet passed a law that three can get hitched. (Not to worry, it’s bound to come. And why only three?)

Yes, time passes without mercy and I think of Lolly as a baby and then as a young girl, mostly haranguing me about being an absent father. Her tirades have left no scars—I was having a good time—so I look at pictures of her being held in my arms with love and amusement, always with a cookie in her hand, always trying to steal the spotlight from the poseur next to her acting like a respected father figure. I once wrote her a note telling her that she had the worst temper since Maria Callas, an aggressiveness that Field Marshal Hasso von Manteuffel would envy, and the intolerance of Savonarola. I finished the note by telling her that’s why I loved her as much as I do. She had it framed and asked me to repeat it at the bridal lunch. As it’s a family wedding I include it here so more people will be warned.

“[W]hen Agamemnon asks the Gods what he has to sacrifice for a favorable wind to sail to Troy, Zeus decides that the king has to sacrifice his most precious of all children, not his son, but Iphigenia.”

Most fathers see their daughters as brides while their bones are not brittle and their liver spots are in the distant future. Not in my case, alas. Nature’s payback for those who have dodged cancer is Alzheimer’s, although Aristotle who knew nothing about those terrible twins simply hated the old. Too pessimistic, malicious, and small-minded, thought the great man. And who am I to argue with the great Greek? Judo and karate have kept the bones hard, and the beauty of Jessica Raine and her ilk keeps the mind focused on the fairer sex, even as I shall be walking my little girl down the aisle. (She’s got some beauts as girlfriends.) But I have to be serious and stop this nonsense. I really do. Life’s disappointments have hardly marked me as I had absolutely no ambition to begin with. Only yesterday I was 25 and had played in Wimbledon and competed in the world skiing championships in Chamonix. Polo, karate, and judo were in my future.  I couldn’t and never learned how to read a balance sheet, could not and cannot divide, speak Greek, English, and French rather fluently, and forgot my first language, German. I read novels, mostly Americans, and although I hated the snobbishness and malice of Waugh, he and Graham Greene were included. And the Russians and the Germans. Flaubert and Dumas. Now I will not and cannot read a novel. Only history and biography will do. Novels are for the young and impressionable, they complete a young person’s imagination. But back to my daughter and her impending wedding.

When the mother of my children was expecting her, many Greek friends of mine approached me and wished me good luck and a son. We hadn’t had a girl in our family for generations. I wanted a girl and got one. Greeks have a strange relationship with daughters. It’s in a way mystical, because of ancient times and a woman’s place in society. Yet when Agamemnon asks the Gods what he has to sacrifice for a favorable wind to sail to Troy, Zeus decides that the king has to sacrifice his most precious of all children, not his son, but Iphigenia. Apollo, of course, takes pity on her and plucks her away, or so one of the legends tells us, and looking back it’s fortunate that the son wasn’t sacrificed because Agamemnon’s murder by Clytemnestra would have never been avenged, so sons do come in handy at times. My own boy, JT, arrived in the Bagel last week unannounced on his way to Puerto Rico for a bike race. “Will you be back on time for your sister’s wedding?” I asked. He looked at me as if I had dropped acid. The same reaction my buddy Michael Mailer had when I jokingly told him I was missing her wedding because I had to defend my judo title in Reno, Nevada on May 3rd. “Get off the LSD,” was his reaction.

And so it goes. My little girl is going to be a Mrs., like the deputy editor of the Spectator, but unlike the latter, whose marriage drove me to despair and self-loathing, the former’s wedding will turn a tone poem into a fugue, from a minor to a major key, however corny it may sound. I last got hog-whimpering drunk on Friday, in Brooklyn, for Michael’s birthday and have vowed not to touch a drop until the night before I walk her down. Typically, the bride to be even warned me about that: I want to be walked down, not to have to walk you down, she said over the telephone. I could envision her mother nodding approval. What a bunch of nannies I’m stuck with. It’s enough to drive a man to you know what.



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