Sometime in the late 1990’s, my wife and I drove to Owego, NY to visit my aging father. My mum had passed away in 1992, so my dad was living quietly and alone as a widower in our big rambling family home on Front Street.
Room by room and closet by closet, any objects or artifacts that was evidence of my mother living in the house for nearly 50 years, began to disappear. And, this is as it should be. My father had lost his wife and really didn’t need or want to see constant reminders of their 56-year-old marriage. My mother liked to save things, as many folks of their generation did. So, it was no big deal with me, when I was a child, to open a drawer in the dining room chest and find several hundred buttons.
However, little things get swept under the rug, so to speak. When I was cleaning out the house after his death in 2004, I found quite a few buttons in quite a few drawers.
But, buttons do not play a part in the story I want to tell. This is a father, son and son’s wife tale. I can attest to you that every word is true, although I may have fudged on the dates a little. I mean, I’m getting old too, so my memory for certain things is a bit dicey.
On our visits, which were quick weekend jaunts from New York City where I was living, all went pretty much the same. We’d call him on the cell when we approached Suicide Curve in Binghamton and he would phone in an order from Pizza Hut. We’d pick it up and head to 420 Front Street. The rest of the evening would be just talking until bedtime. In the mornings, I would sleep in a bit and Mariam would get up early and sit with my father and have coffee.
It was on one of those mornings that my wife decided she needed a pair of boots. She had seen the ideal pair in a Victoria Secrets catalog back in the city. So, she called from our apartment and arranged to have the boots delivered to my father’s house in Owego.
Well, on this particular visit, things went smoothly. The boots were waiting at my dad’s house. Good fit. Nice boots. Everyone’s happy.
Several months later, we were again visiting my father. He mentioned something to us that was annoying him. It seems that Victoria Secrets saved the 420 Front Street mailing address in their data base. Naturally, my father began to receive the catalog(s) on a frequent basis. They would arrive and he would put them into the recycling.
One morning, he happened to be on the front porch when the mail delivery person came up the steps with the bundle for my father. According to my dad, the postman gave him a wink…a knowing wink. And then another wink.
My father was 84 years old!
My father thought about this for a few days before he realized what the wink was about the almost daily delivery of the Victoria Secrets catalog. Now, this won’t mean anything to someone who was born yesterday or happened to drop in from Mars last night, but the catalogs had more than a few scantily clad models in very sexy lingerie, in fact, the company is well-known for the way it peddles the bras…it’s nothing short of a PG-13 version of Penthouse. [Not that I would know, mind you, I never saw any of the catalogs, or a Penthouse, Playboy, Mayfair, Swank, Gentleman or Hustler magazine in my life! Certainly not at the $8.99 cost per issue. I simply had no idea. I spent years thinking an underwire was something on a radio.]
As usual, my wife solved the problem with a simple phone call. My father was taken off the mailing list.
And, that’s pretty much the end of the story.
It might be worth noting that my father was a frugal man, as many Depression-era folks were. I often wonder why he didn’t realize that he would never have to shell out $8.99 for an issue of Playboy, when Victoria Secrets came to his house for free.
At least he would have known what an underwire was used for.