I cannot imagine a daughter having a better dad than my father. He made it a priority to spend as much time with his children as he could. In the summertime, he rented a little cottage in Connecticut on the Long Island Sound where we took long walks on the beach, swam together and talked about life. Although it might sound like I was an indulged child, I wasn't. My father spoiled me with love and attention and with the luxury of his time, teaching me to draw, taking me horseback riding, ice-skating, and years later, after he discovered golf, to the driving range.
Although he came from a very rough neighborhood, my father had developed an appreciation for the arts, especially drawing and music. My father and brother listened to opera. And with my mother, he listened to Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald. They were always on top of the latest entertainers. I remember walking in on my dad once while he was watching ballet on television. I was mesmerized by the image of him gazing at Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margo Fonteyn dancing together.
And, my father loved to draw, especially with charcoals and pastels. He taught me to do the same when I was a little girl. I loved it too. One of the first drawings I ever did was a portrait of Caroline Kennedy with her dog that I copied from an issue of Ladies' Home Journal. My father and I worked on that drawing for weeks. Sadly, there's been no time in my life to continue that pursuit, but I loved it so. I learned to play the piano as a little girl too, and though I didn't love to practice and wasn't a great pianist by any stretch of the imagination, I loved to sing! When I told my parents I was no longer interested in learning the piano, my father decided to take lessons with me as his way of encouraging me to continue on. I think playing the piano was a secret dream of his. It was fantastic that he cared so deeply about me getting the best education I could—even piano lessons.
Although I appreciated my father's attempt to keep me interested, I wasn't. I had a friend who also took lessons from the same piano teacher and she hated them too. One snowy night she and I concocted a plan to lock our teacher out of our homes. When he rang the bell, I threw myself under the bay window in the front of our house and lay flat against the wall so he couldn't see me. My friend kept to our plan and locked him out too. We were so proud we pulled it off and happy we didn't have to have our lessons that night.
A few days later, the piano teacher called to say he wouldn't be teaching me anymore. Although I felt a little guilty about locking him out on such a snowy night, I was really glad I didn't have to take any more lessons.