To be real. Totally you is one of the best gifts you can give your children because it gives them permission to be true too. If my dad were alive, I would thank him for never acting like anyone else. Growing up I didn’t appreciate his authenticity because it included calling out posers and sharing sharp opinions in any setting. Plus, I lived with my mother in Manhattan where good manners were essential.
My dad’s friends were everyday people. We spent Saturdays making impromptu visits to all of them. Mostly, they were auto mechanics, doormen, and used car salesmen. We’d go to the Mamaroneck Diner for lunch where he would chat with the waitresses. He was a bold and persistent flirt.
The Esso station in Pelham, NY was my favorite place to visit. Pete the mechanic was generous with his dinosaur premiums and didn’t ask questions. I was content, sitting in a dingy corner of the garage separate and safe while my dad chatted with Pete.
When I was old enough to absorb the mores of Park Avenue parents, I felt out-of-place around my dad’s friends. Not because I looked down on them but because I felt different and spoiled. Sometimes my dad would pick me up after school and drive downtown to chat with Mike, a doormen at the Intercontinental Hotel. I hoped against hope that Mike would ignore me. Instead, he leaned into the car and asked about school. I always sensed a subtle judgment. One reserved for kids who must be ruined by their privilege.
Despite my mother’s diligent efforts to root me in Manhattan’s upper class culture, I am more like my dad. Chatting with strangers is second nature, and I am a little too free with my opinions. I still love Tiffany’s, but day-to-day I prefer simple living. A garden, the sun and a rocking chair are my food along with any conversation that is real.
Since my father’s death, I’ve had lots of time to think about the good things I learned from him and less about the bad. At the top of the list is being real. It lets us bond with the friends of our souls, and it gives us the opportunity to serve others with the power that comes from being true.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. Instead, let’s consider 2020 the year of truth, first to ourselves and then to our friends and family. We’ve lived with lies in the landscape for too long, and there’s nothing we can do about most of them, but we do have the extraordinary power of our own truth. And it’s worth telling.