May 12th, 2023
I am not a spitter but my dad is. On the occasion when I must spit a bug out of my mouth, I often end up with some part of my spit on my chin or shirt. It is lack luster, sloppy, girly, unsatisfying spit. My Dad spits like a man. I have not seen my Dad spit in a long time, that is not until the other day. While picking up a mirror from him at his condo, my Dad, out of nowhere, gave a good old fashioned, hard, I am from the Bronx, direct spit right into the ground and it had me wondering why.
Growing up my dad worked as a building engineer for a large corporate real estate firm called Schulman. Back in the late 60’s the Schulmans bought 421 acres of a stretch of land that ran along the newly built highway I-287 in Westchester NY. This land basically connects the Hudson River to the Long Island Sound and thus NJ and NY to CT. Most people traveling anywhere north of NY from south of NY have made their way at one point through this stretch and through my hometown White Plains.
During my Dad’s tenure at this company the Schulmans built shimmering office park after shimmering office park. On Sundays after church my dad would take us for a little drive to “check on things”. Dressed in patten leather shoes with little white socks and gingham dresses, my sister Nancy and I along with little Denis and baby Franny would watch and learn how meadows and forests became parking lots and mirrored 10 story office buildings. In one of these office parks my immigrant Irish grandparents lived on site for a while as the supers of the building. Sometimes we would stop in for butterscotch candies, coffee cake and warm sweat tea. I remember my Peepa and even my sweet Nana could spit too. My Nana was sent here from Ireland at 15 to work as a domestic in a home in Manhattan. My Peepa jumped ship and was illegal here for many years due to “political differences”. I imagine them alone, after a rough steamboat passage from Ireland, finally touching American soil for the first time. With no idea of each other or their impending American love story ahead, I imagine their mouths filling with hunger for a new life while also having the bitter taste of their hard journey and broken hearts curled scared in the back of their mouth. I imagine their tongue twisting for a moment to separate worlds and find courage. I imagine their first hard spit hitting Manhattan to let her know that they had made it and were not going back.
Which brings me back to my Dad spitting.
Often when we would get out of the car on those Sundays my Dad would light up a cigarette and before taking a good drag would spit direct and fast off to his left side. (I often tend to pick the right side of a person and I wonder now if it is because of this.) My Dad would spit, squint, smoke and point to show us what was to come. In doing so week after week, he taught us all how to envision, how to see what was not there, how to dream, how to build and how to manifest. All of my siblings to this day can just about see anything structural, move it around, take down and put it back up…. all in our head. This has made shopping for homes very challenging for all of our spouses. “Well we could put the kitchen over there and take down that wall.” You get the idea…
So…. why was my Dad spitting again after all these years?
After living in Maryland for a few years and getting involved in the Rosslare Ridge Mays Chapel Condo Association, people got wind of the fact that my Dad knew a lot about managing properties. Now low and behold he is the President of the board.
So there we were standing outside the building, down where the parking garage was, out of site from residents. He began pointing again and talking about the vines that he removed from the trees with the saw he borrowed and about the elevator repairs that were made because the old elevator company were knuckleheads and had to be fired and how he negotiated a new contract and brought in a better company and how the lobby renovations have caused a huge debate about styling the lobby to look modern rather than like a funeral parlor. My dad was back, fully present, without the cigarettes or children in toe. His caring soft Irish eyes were claiming his turf with a quick direct spit, and I knew he had purpose again. That a part of him long gone had come back ready to imagine and manifest and protect once again, that he had made it and was not going back.