Hockey Players Don’t Cry and Other Things My Father Taught Me

In honor of Father’s Day, and my Dad (who despite his habit of doing embarrassing things like tripping over an installation at my opening and breakingthe piece…which he says is “in his job description as a father”… is pretty rad) here are a few of the important life lessons my Father has taught me over the years:

How to use a hammer. 

When I was 5, I used to hang out in my father’s workshop a lot. He had, and still has, a 1955 MG that he tinkers with. It’s a big flashy red car so that alone was appealing. I didn’t care much for dolls, much to both of my parents’ pleasure, so when I needed something to keep me busy and to keep me occupied while he was tuning the carburetor, my dad gave me a piece of wood, a box of nails and a hammer to play with.

Now I play with a hammer at work, hanging shows.

My dad is always there to pick me up and remind me, Hockey Players don't Cry
My dad is always there to pick me up and remind me, Hockey Players don’t Cry

Hockey Players Don’t Cry.

It was bath time and a bar of soap had gone rogue, slipping unnoticed out of the soap dish and onto the floor of the tub. I slipped. And cracked my head open. I was probably 3. My Nanny rushed me to the doctor. As he approached with the needle to stitch the gaping wound closed, I started to bawl. My father, who had escaped work early to meet us there, turned to me and said: “Hockey players don’t cry.”

The tears stopped and a few minutes later I headed out of the office with a lollipop.

Of course the irony: I never played hockey.

“In heaven, all you get is Matzo and Manischewitz. Just enjoy the hot dog.” 

Health food and my father just don’t go together — they’re like water and oil. But my father has a point: life is short, every once in a while, it’s okay to indulge a little bit.

48_514356608072_2585_nReal Men Play Rugby

My father was an international rugby player when he and my mother were a young couple. When I went to college, he started volunteer coaching our ragamuffin team, which meant I had a legitimate reason to go to games.

Sub lesson learned — rugby players have great thighs…

It’s important to have a morning routine. 

Every day, my father drives into town to the local bakery. He buys the scone of the day, a cup of coffee, and 2 cookies to split among the 3 dogs that make up the rest of the family. He comes home, spreads out a napkin and proceeds to read the entire NYTimes, cover to cover. No one can make him do anything before he finishes the paper. This is a routine I approve of, and I would take part too, except he hogs the paper…

You have to kiss a lot of toads. 

My father has spoiled me rotten. He can fix everything. He can’t really cook anything, unless it’s out of a can, but otherwise, he’s pretty ace. Standards are pretty high. Every time something goes south with the guy I’m seeing my father, in his usual way just shrugs and says: “You have to kiss a lot of toads before you find a prince.”

Since you have to kiss a lot of toads, it’s just better if you learn to do it yourself. 

And this is why he’s taught me to grout, paint, check my oil, etc. etc — because, as he also says: “How can you be independent if you can’t change a tire?”

Thanks, Dad.

Want to plant a tree? Here's how to use a post digger. Thanks Dad!
Want to plant a tree? Here’s how to use a post digger. Thanks Dad!




The Incident of the Raccoon in the Night Time

I feel I should preface this story by telling you that, despite incidents like the one I’m about to recount, my parents are determined to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary come this September.

Over the years, my father has saved everything from mourning doves to families of squirrels.

My father is a notoriously mushy animal lover. He claims that if he could do it all over again, he’d design fighter jets for the Air Force, but I’m convinced he’d like to be Jane Goodall. When my mother met him, he had a pet turtle that lived in a pot near the stove. Things didn’t end well for the turtle, but let that not become representative of  the fate of animals to come. Over the years he’s rescued mourning doves, sparrows, rabbits, and families of squirrels, all in addition to presiding over our own pack of terriers. But last week, my father’s dogged determination to save all creatures great and small nearly got him killed…by his wife and daughter.

It was just after 10:00PM on Wednesday night. Top Chef All-Stars was still recapping last week’s episode when my 4-year old Irish Terrier started whining and barking as if to warn us the end of the world was coming.

“She probably wants to go out,” my father said as he pulled on his snow boots, acting both martyr and chaperon.

Only minutes passed before he was dragging the barking dog back into the house.

“Aww! There’s a baby raccoon under the porch! And it’s crying. It must be hurt,” he cried.

I’ve never seen my mother move so fast.

“Leave it alone. LEAVE. IT. A. LONE! It might be Rabid. IT. MIGHT. BE. RABID.” It’s hard to know who was more vexed — the dog who wanted to make mincemeat out of the raccoon, or my mother who wanted to make mincemeat out of my father.

“Kathleen! Get me a box and the pick-up-stuff claw,” my father cried over the protestations of both the terrier and his wife.

sure, sometimes a raccoon in your backyard is cute. sometimes, it's just rabid.

“Kathleen! You will do no such thing. Come here! Tell your father he’s being an idiot. He won’t listen to me. Tell him to call animal control!”

“Dad,” I said calmly, “call animal control.”

“Oh, but it’s crying. Maybe it’s just separated from it’s mother. I can save it. Get me the drop cloth.”

“DAD! Leave it alone. We have dogs. It’s a raccoon. That’s a wild animal. Call animal control. It could be rabid.” I swear, it was like trying to negotiate with a deaf hostage taker who was demanding a get away car and amnesty but had turned off his hearing aid.

“Why don’t you call animal control. I’ll wait here with it.”

“No! You will stay away from it! It could be RABID,” my mother and I commanded, in a scary synchronization.

Soon my father was outside with the guy from animal control, searching the hedges for a potentially rabid raccoon with what amounted to two key-chain flashlights and a vaulter’s pole.

After 30 minutes, my father stomped snow and pine needles into the house. “It looks like the raccoon went back to its mother. I don’t think it was rabid. Just lost. Happy Ending!”

The raccoon did not go back to it’s mother. There was no happy ending.

Cute though they may be, in the winter at night time, my favorite raccoon is a vintage fur coat.

12 hours later, the sun was up and my father, 2 men from animal control, and an armed policeman were in a stand off in our yard with a now certifiably crazed and rabid raccoon. The raccoon was exterminated.

“So, ummm, Kathleen, do you want a Davey Crocket hat to go with your fur coat?” he said as he came back into the house. “I have to go back out and do some paperwork with the police officer. Something to do with discharging his firearm.”

My mother and I turned to look at him, “I Told You So” dripping from our eyes like venom from the snake’s fangs.

“While you’re at it,” my mother hollared, “You can search the yard for raccoon poop. We don’t want the dogs eating it. And you know, in 50 years, one ‘I’m sorry, you were right’ wouldn’t kill you!”

“Well, I’ve made it this long without one, so you never know… it might.”

My Mother is my Wing-Woman

The Dynamic Duo of Diane & Kathleen

My mother and I make one notorious team. We’re legendary actually. We’re kind of big deals. Ask anyone in any department at Neiman Marcus or Whole Foods or Agata & Valentina or NikeTown. We’re a sort of the Hilary and Chelsea in the great world of unsung heroes. Imagine a  little Lucy and Ethyl mashed with Keri Walsh and Misty-Mae Trainer. There’s a 40-year spread between us, but you wouldn’t know it to listen to us.

We’re power-players with big ideas, big plans, and a knack for getting things done… and for getting in to trouble. What, drive 3,000 miles in 3 days to avoid taking an airplane? No problem. But we’re also a walking comedy act.  Get us together in an awkward situation, and everyone goes home giggling.

She’s a master at the big picture and too brilliant  for her own good. I’m Miss Detail and a quick study who knows how to make ideas into material things. She has experience and smarts, I have the boundless energy of youth. We’re both quick to point out the absurd and even quicker to make a wisecrack. She raised me on Farragamos, Tanqueray, and the Beatles. I introduced her to Tory Burch, Cosmopolitans, and Madonna.  She taught me everything I know about most things, but I taught her about Kirchner and Sargent. She’s my best wingwoman. When I’m out on the town with her, I never go home without a phone number.

We’d make an awesome duo in a reality show. Don’t believe me? Here’s a sneak-peak:

We're good at making biker-buddies

Scene: Kathleen and Diane are sitting in the living room.

Kathleen: Do you want to see Bob Dylan in concert?

Diane: Sure. When is he coming to New York?

Kathleen: Actually, I was thinking we’d go seem him in Cleveland. It’s about a 500 mile drive.

Diane: Okay. Did you want to rent some motorcycles too?

(Kathleen and Diane drive to Cleveland and meet up with some vintage Hell’s Angels… no joke)


Scene: Kathleen and Diane are standing in the elevator of a medical building. A tall, dark, handsome resident wearing a Columbia signet ring walks in and smiles at Kathleen, who is also wearing a Columbia signet ring. On the next floor he’s gone. Diane smacks Kathleen on the back of the head.

Diane: How many times do I have to tell you! When you see a good looking man in an elevator, talk to him. As long as he doesn’t look like an axe-murder, good things may come of it.  I met your father in an elevator. I asked him if he was Dutch, because, as I told him, he had a very Dutch-looking nose. 48 years later, I’m reminding him to trim his nose-hairs.

Scene: Kathleen is getting dressed for an interview. She has poison-ivy on her feet and ankles and is in crisis mode because she can’t wear her designated “interview” dress. She hollars for Diane. Diane comes up the stairs and finds Kathleen standing on the landing in high-waisted Katherine Hepburnesque pants, 3-inch Farragamo pumps, and a magenta bra:

Diane: That looks good. Why can’t you wear that?

Kathleen: Because I’m interviewing to work at an auction house, not auditioning to be one of Madonna’s backup dancers.