Sunday, August 18, 2013

A gift from Uncle Slappy.

Uncle Slappy came into my room early this morning as my wife and I were getting ready to head for the pool. He was carrying a small wrapped package and he somewhat abashedly handed it to me.

"For all you do for me and Aunt Sylvie," he said.

I tore open the wrapping paper and found a Villebrequin swimsuit inside. It was a light blue and had a grey turtle pattern. I immediately looked over at Uncle Slappy and noticed he was wearing a matching suit.

I never had much of a father, and Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie never had kids of their own, but I imagine this is the kind of thing fathers and sons do when the sons are about five or six. Not when they are fifty years older than that.

Nevertheless, you could have knocked me over with a feather. This gift, this matching turtle-print Villebrequin was the closing of a loop, the acknowledgement that Uncle Slappy plays a role in my life bigger than that my old man ever played.

"Villebrequin," I said, not knowing what to say. "That's a very fancy brand." I excused myself to change into my new trunks.

When I came out a minute later, Uncle Slappy was well-prepared to defuse any sentiment.

"These trunks," he said "remind me of the ballroom at Beth Elohim Synagogue on East 77th Street."

"There's no ballroom at Beth Elohim," I said. (I had attended many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs there.)

"Exactly what's wrong with these suits," Uncle Slappy said. "No ball room."

He was right. The suit was tight. And tight in the wrong places.

Nevertheless, we walked, the four of us, gingerly to the pool.

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