My godparents were my next door neighbors in Brooklyn. I don't think they were ever formally my godparents, but I felt they were my godparents because they kept an eye on us whenever possible, gave us tasty food, and helped us in our school candy sales. We called them Aunt Yola and Uncle Al. Aunt Yola was a lovely Mediterranean woman with a heart of gold. She was probably Greek as she was tall and fair-skinned. Uncle Al was an olive-skinned Sicilian who was rugged, handsome, and drove a big white Buick Wildcat. He always liked poking fun of people, such as my brother Dave, by calling them a "donkeyapple." To this day, I have no idea what that meant. I guess it was a nice way of saying "dipshit." My greatgodmother, Aunt Yola's mom, was a lively, silver-haired woman who always had a smile on her face and a story to tell. They were my next door neighbors for the first nine years of my life and we made periodic visits to see them over the years. Sadly, I fell out of touch with them over the years, but their kindness will always be remembered.
Between my mother and my Dad, I can honestly say that my Dad has been the more nurturing one. There is a reason why I don't refer to my mother as "Mom" or "Mother" with a capital "M" and one can write volumes about our turbulent relationship over the years. My Dad is not without faults, but I have come to realize over the years that he had a great weight placed on his shoulders from being the primary to the sole provider in our family and having to deal with a spouse who was not altogether there. My Dad was what I would refer to as "whip smart." He could learn anything by picking up a book and reading about it. He helped my brother Dave with many of his school subjects, especially math, and now Dave has a master's degree in computer science.
My Dad worked a lot of overtime hours, so my brothers and I didn't see him much. He did this because my mother claimed she had high blood pressure at 40 and couldn't work. She has outlived her mother and is now over 80 years old. I remember she liked to play mah jongg with her friends a lot. These friends of hers also did not work or did not work much. Somehow, my Dad managed to put his three kids through college. That is no small feat for a man with a modest salary. He wanted each of us to have an easier life than he had and I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today were it not for him.
My Dad served in the 1st Calvary Division, one of the most decorated combat divisions of the United States Army. What I remember most fondly about him was he would always make shots that nobody else could in carnival shooting galleries. He was deadly accurate with a BB rifle and he was always in top shape at 165 pounds at five-foot-eight. He told us he grew two inches in his time in the army. I always figured the army gave him a super soldier serum to make him bigger and stronger. He loved America and always taught us to display our flags proudly as Americans. He was the closest thing to a Captain America that I would know personally.
Our family typically ate Chinese cuisine every weekday, but on weekends my Dad tried to change it up with non-Asian meals of pasta and meat, lasagna, and corned beef and cabbage. I always felt the last one was an homage to the woman he could have married, a beautiful Irish woman with red hair. Strangely, my natural highlights are red. However, I do acknowledge that I am basically a splitting image of my mother, a strikingly beautiful woman who maintained her physical beauty well into her forties. It would be crazy to see the guys trying to hit on her when my brothers and I were separated from her at a supermarket. I learned my superior makeup skills from her. That has enabled me to earn a small living doing makeup for fashion shows and weddings.
I believe I inherited my wonderful marksmanship abilities from my Dad. That has enabled me to be "a natural" in pistol shooting and archery. I believe I inherited my calm demeanor, also from Dad. That has enabled me to be a great yoga teacher. I believe I inherited my resilience from my Dad. That has enabled me to endure all the trials and tribulations of life. I believe I inherited my intellectual curiosity, compassion, and love for life from my Dad. I can honestly say he is a great man.
Mrs. Elaine Steier was quite possibly my favorite teacher in Mark Twain Junior High School. She inspired me to become the writer I am today. My friends and classmates all knew that I was Mrs. Steier's favorite student. I believe she saw something special in me in the way I was able to weave words together to form a beautiful quilt of expression. I had several friends who were rivals in school and they were all envious that I received the coveted "H" (honors) grade in 9th grade English. I also received "O" (outstanding) grades in Algebra and Science and a decent grade in History. I should've been well on my way to an Ivy League school, but I took the long route by going to Boston University first, getting my first Master's degree at 21, and then going to the University of Pennsylvania for my Ph.D. I can honestly say that my writing ability enabled me to get the most out of my college classes.