I was four when my father made the moon. It was late and we were playing catch. The 7:20 train had arrived in Far Rockaway that August evening and my father had caught a ride from the station with Mr. Traiger. I was waiting in the yard, the grass tickling my bare feet and in my hand I clutched a small pink Spalding rubber ball.
“Daddy, Daddy,” I shouted before he even had a chance to catch his breath, “play catch with me! Please, puh-lease,” I begged.
My dad had a cherubic face. It crinkled with pleasure, the weight of the day falling from his shoulders as he dropped his daily paper to the stoop.
“OK, Shya, give me the ball and run over there.”
I handed him the ball, gave him a quick hug around the waist, and dashed to the edge of the lawn. He tossed me a few. I hardly caught any, but my enthusiasm sparkled like the early stars edging their way through the chiseled blue. The sun had set, its fire all but extinguished, and then my Dad, who was my hero and capable of anything, produced a miracle. He pitched that pink rubber ball high into the evening sky and that was when he made the Spalding moon. I lost sight of the ball as it was lobbed skyward and frantically I searched to find and catch it. That was when I saw that lovely, full harvest moon hanging above me. I was mesmerized. Long after my father disappeared into the house I sat on the stoop and gazed at what he had created.
I believed with all my heart that my father made the moon. It was years before I was disabused of this notion. Sometimes I look at my life and have to simply shake my head as I see that there is the story and then there is the obvious. As a child I told myself many things that appeared true at the time that, from an adult perspective, obviously were not.
For example, when I was a bit older, 8 or 9 perhaps, I spent several long bored afternoons at my father’s factory in New York’s garment district. I made long circuits around the large cutting tables, trailing a finger and looking for things to occupy myself. The cutter at this time was William Salereno and he would cut the material to be sewn into fine dresses. William had a magical drawer under the cutting tables filled with oddments, pipe cleaners, paperclips, an old stamp, a penny or two. He also had boxes and boxes of toothpicks and oh how I wanted some. I dreamt of all the things I could make with those tiny slivers of wood – houses and trains and racing cars. I begged and cajoled and he let me have one precious box. I set to work with a bottle of Elmer’s glue and high hopes of creating the car that was in my mind’s eye. It was a dismal failure, lumpy and misshapen, nothing like my intent.
And there it was, my proof, the start of a really good tale. I was “clumsy, no good with my hands, unable to build anything of worth.” Utterly defeated I threw it all away and sat with my legs kicking the rungs of my chair, waiting for the long, long afternoon to end.
Today I still have that story: I am still clumsy, no good with my hands, unskilled, a failure and unable to build anything of value. What’s more, according to this old tale, I have never done anything of value with my life. And yet, in my dining room sits a smooth black walnut harvest table. The wood was lovingly hand milled and shaped although I left the edges “live” with the bark still intact. The grain is so fine and so is the workmanship. It will likely be just as beautiful long after my grandchildren are grown. I am “no good” at tying fishing flies either, according to this story. And yet I am passionate about tying them and my wife, Ariel, has caught all of her world record fish on my flies. And yes, in these “clumsy good for nothing hands” she has found pleasure for more than 25 years.
Yes, I have my story and then there is the obvious, there is reality if one cares to look. We all have told ourselves big and little untruths since we were children. Left unexamined, they range from sweet and laughable to downright caustic and rancid, able to turn this moment into something foul.
Luckily, our stories are but gossamer. A breath of wind can carry them off. The light of awareness, the simple seeing of an old story without judging it or yourself, will allow the truth to be revealed and then you may still have that old story but it will no longer have you.