NOTES FROM THE PAST
For years I’ve written notes—anything from a grocery list to an idea for an essay—in the blank spaces in newspapers, and occasionally I come across some of that scribbling. While waiting for an update on my computer to be installed recently, I plucked several old newspaper pages from a shelf on my desk.
There was a piece from The New York Times on the food in Chicago, where my wife and I lived when we were first married. A page from December 2006 had the words “bone scan” and “radiologist” on it, probably scrawled after I was told I had prostate cancer. Another note was about rolling back the odometer on a car, a comment I hope was a possible subject for an essay rather than a statement of intentions.
Most of these jottings were made on the LIRR on my way home from work. A few of them made no sense, were hard to read or both. The longest note I found was dated April 1, 2004, just over two weeks after our second granddaughter, Daniella, was born. Loaded with abbreviations and written in my tiny handwriting, it was all about the newest member of the family.
“You were going to come over to our house last night so we could have dinner, but it was raining, and you had a bad diaper rash and it was decided that Grandma and Grandpa would bring the eats over to your house…We packed the lasagna, the bread, a bottle of white wine and came over around 6:30…
“You were slumped (Slumpy Daniella) in your chair, asleep and all covered up. We had a drink but not until I got on my knees in the front room where you were (everyone else was in the kitchen—when you get older you’ll know that’s where everyone congregates, at least at first when company comes over) and asked how you were and what was new. You didn’t feel like talking, apparently, but that didn’t stop me. I was prattling away.
“We had dinner while Slumpy stayed slumped. Afterwards we watched Mom feed you two bottles of milk, one of hers and one of the store’s. Before that I think it was, or maybe between bottles, you were changed and lotioned. White cream on your cheeks and groin area and you bawled a little. Nothing like a good bawl when you want something. Some babies never forget that after they get out of diapers.
“Anyway, Mom fed you two bottles and …(began) patting your back. Grandma and Grandpa kept waiting to hear one of those marvelous baby burps. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Keine. We said good night after jumping at the chance to do our 1st Daniella watching (sitting) Saturday when Mom and Dad go to a party briefly. (Somewhere during our visit I put my right index finger in your hand, and it happened! I got a finger clutch, grab. Oh my.)
“I kissed you on the way out as Mommy was holding you and when we got home she had left a message on the answering machine. You burped! Way to go. Hope we don’t miss it the next time which just may be Saturday. I can’t wait for Saturday to come.”
It had been 11 years since there was a baby in the family, and my gushing tone shows how excited I was. But there are two bothersome things about the note. I hope those who found me an intimidating, heartless presence in newsrooms for more than 40 years don’t see this tender side, and I’ve got to start going through other newspaper pages hidden in my desk or elsewhere, hoping I can find similar sentiments expressed when Daniella’s sister, Cristiana, came along three years later. If I don’t find one, I’m in trouble. Wish me luck. I’d hate to have to make something up.
(This appeared originally in the August 2017 edition of the Great South Bay Magazine.)