Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Way I Remember It

The way I remember it, it was my mother who convinced my father to allow me to move to New York at the age of 19. I had just completed a disastrous freshmen year at U. Penn, having lost 30 pounds and taken two incompletes out of four courses in the spring semester. I was a functional bulimic and a complete wreck, not at all an obvious candidate to go tough it out alone in such a challenging city, to pursue an impossible profession. I did have a few arguments in the plus column - a decent chunk of money set aside and a talent manager who was willing to rep me if I moved - but any rational analysis would have the negatives far outweighing the positives.

But somehow Mom prevailed, and I moved into a one-bedroom summer sublet (shared with a Penn alum) on the Upper West Side. What started as a summer experiment stretched into a two-year sojourn, full of auditions, demoralizing part-time jobs, a few acting gigs, some self-destructive behavior, and the ultimate realization that I'd squandered my educational opportunities thus far, and that there was already enough ignorance in the world. So, when my leave of absence from school expired after two years, I went back. (I met Michael the very evening I moved back to Swarthmore, and that was that.)

While I lived in New York, my dad contrived to take a sabbatical year and spent it driving to and from Brookhaven National Labs twice a week - conveniently placing him within spitting distance of Manhattan during the commute. He would stop in the city and take me and my roommate out for sushi dinners on a fairly regular basis. I know now that this was his way of supporting me in this crazy undertaking, of which he heartily disapproved, as well as an opportunity to see in person that I was still alive and in (mostly) one piece. He never lectured or harangued, he simply drove into the city and took me out for sushi, then continued on his way to his science experiments.

It took me a long time to realize what a gift that was.


Emily said...

What a lovely post -- and a tremendous gift. We know now as parents how hard it is to watch our children chart their own path - especially when it may not be the right one. Your dad did a brave thing letting you go and smart thing holding you close along the way - so well you didnt even realize it at the time. That's skill.

Magpie said...

a gift indeed.

well read hostess said...

That's lovely. Hold on tight to that.

Kelly said...

It seems being present in the way your father was is as close to perfection as possible.

Sue said...