—for Dorothy Paulsen
On the day we spoke, you were a skeptic out of the gate.
Like any good New Yorker, I think. That day you wore a rose-colored
shawl, pearls, your gold cross. And the late sun cast its warm white
along one side of your pretty, smiling face.
Let's start at the beginning, Brooklyn. Let's start with a name or two.
You, Dorothy Pyle, the baby of four. A happy home. St. Martin of Tours
just around the corner. And Charlotte Russe—the little cake with white
cream your father would bring home on payday.
Later, a new name, Vincent Paulsen. Your mothers arranged a meeting.
But you were still too young. He waited. And when you finally wed,
the landlady was so excited she fell out of the window she was cleaning
(and survived). Then two more names—Stacie Lynn and John—
a daughter and son.
You moved your little family from Brooklyn to Queens, Long Island
then New Jersey. Vinny's work for the Wall Street Journal took you.
You built a life, a happy marriage. You worked throughout. First for
TWA, then the travel agency you managed. You toured the world.
But the parties. Oh, the parties! One summer you and Vinny put an
inflatable raft from the airline in your yard in Long Island. You filled it
up like a pool. Your guests sat, drinks in hand, cooling off on hot days.
It was such a lot of fun, you say.
You sing me a few lines then, from the one about the automobile
mechanic. Your signature song. The one you sang at soirées
with your sister, Anne.
Will you love me when my carburetor’s busted?
Will you love me when I cannot shift my gears?
And you smile, a smile that lights your eyes corner to corner.
No wonder you were the life of the party, an impeccable host,
impeccably dressed. I can see it now, down in Florida all those years.
The whole compound of family and friends. The ocean across the street.
We agree, there's nothing like the sea, like a good martini, a song,
a laugh. You look forward to it all, you say. To Mass in person,
to shopping again.
So here's to it. And here's to you, Dorothy Paulsen, née Pyle. Chin-chin!
©2021 by Lee Peterson