It felt a little weird to write “Daddy and his favorite Fokker under the Facebook picture, so I settled on “Daddy and his favorite toy”. Next to my mother and myself, that plane was my father’s pride and joy. Years after he graduated from that to a sleeker Cetabria – which became OUR toy – he kept the prop to that plane. I suppose he planned on putting a clock in the middle. I don’t think he ever really made up his mind.
For a while the prop sat in his photography darkroom in our basement. I can still remember the chemical smells signaling that my father was beginning the developing stage of his pictures. Curled up in a half-round orange-red love seat in his darkroom, we would talk for hours while my mom cooked and baked upstairs. Everything had to be made from scratch. To her it’s like magic. Finding exactly the right combination of ingredients to make smiles appear on people’s faces. Pierogi, golabki, chrusciki, babki, makowiec…her list of masterpieces are endless.
My mom’s house has become a storage warehouse over the years, for all the things I have needed to get rid of. Stuff I didn’t “have room for at the moment”, or was just too sentimental to throw away. Now, almost a year after my dad passed away and with the move to either Myrtle Beach or the Cape nearing, we are slowly going through his things. And my things. The propeller, propped up against his office wall, rests on a map of his beloved Latvia overseeing our tedious work. Next to that a picture of me when I was small – his little girl – his princess. Books to be donated to the Russian Monastery go on one side, the ones going to Aviation Museum on the other. There’s thousands of books and each book is just another memory of watching my Dad do research for his book.
On weekends that weren’t really great for flying, we would all board the Amtrak train for NYC. Dad would head toward the big library while Mom and I headed for the shops. Then lunch at the Russian Tea Room and much more shopping before heading back to meet my father back at the library.
Picking him up was always exciting. I got to go inside that massive, stunning building with the statues of the lions in the front, and lose myself in the sights and sounds among of one of my most favorite things in the world – books.
And, it meant I could finally use a bathroom.
“Look what I found!” Mom’s heavy Polish accent broke my train of thought.
She handed me a stack of letters – long, overstuffed envelopes stamped “AIRMAIL” and tied with a broad, fire-engine red ribbon. I laughed out loud as I took them, remembering every word on them, every penstroke. They were from my then boyfriend back in the United States written to me when I was on a trip to Poland. I was supposed to be gone for six weeks from November through early January, but a MAJOR snowstorm delayed my return for almost another six weeks, I came home the day before Valentine’s Day. My sweetheart had kept the Christmas tree up the entire waiting for me (yep, it was real).
The letters were so romantic, and every word filled with excitement. He had bought me a “very special Christmas present”. “A VERY, VERY special present”. But he couldn’t tell me what it was, because he would “ruin the surprise”, but “everyone was so happy and delighted” and they “couldn’t wait to see my reaction” and he “hoped I’d say ‘yes'”.
But….he couldn’t tell me what it was….
I reread each letter – there was about twenty of them – before sliding it back into the shelter of it’s bluish-tinged envelope. I am a truly lucky woman. I have known and experienced true love. I handed the re-tied bundle back to my Mom, for many more years of safe keeping.
A lot of things have changed since those letters were written. A lot of things have not.
And, some things have simply gotten better.