Dear Son and dear Daughter,
One early morning in late summer of 1992, a couple months after I had graduated high school, Momie, me and our family friend George drove down to Long Beach and boarded the ferry to Catalina Island, to spend the day there. It remains the only time I’ve ever been to Catalina, which is unusual for someone growing up in southern California.
The things I remember most about that day, are that we took a glass bottom boat tour and passed by the Wrigley estate of chewing gum fame, which was now an inn, and the boat operator said that the hotel was already booked for New Years Eve 2000. I was so intrigued that a hotel could be sold out eight years in advance and even more impressed that someone could actually make plans that far in advance. As I write this, it is late 2012 and so it would be like booking New Years 2020. Who knows where we will all be in 2020 ? (Well, probably you two do, if you are reading this).
I remember that on the ferry boat ride back that evening, a huge school of dolphins followed us back to Long Beach Harbor. But when I say huge, kids, I mean, miles and miles long. They followed us for nearly 50 minutes. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. I remember standing at very hull of the boat, with the wind in my hair, looking out and feeling like the king of the world even though Titanic wouldn’t come out for another five years or so.
I also remember that while we were waiting to board the ferry home, I was reading The Jungle Book to my mother, but in German. She had her head in my lap and I was reading aloud to her. I was reading aloud to her even though I didn’t speak a word of German, not yet anyway. In another month or so, that fall, I would go off to Germany for school. My first time away from home. That summer I’d been gifted, I can’t remember from whom, with one of those bilingual books where one side of the page was in English and the other another language, this one German, and I spent the summer reading aloud to her, and everyone complimented me on the fact that I read so well even though I had no idea what the heck I’d been reading.
The afternoon that my mother died, nearly twenty years later, I downloaded a copy of Das DjungelBuch to my iPhone, to read to her nearly comatose bedside. I came over in the afternoon and they said she was being given a bath.
I waited in the waiting room for just over an hour, before I had to go back home.
I wish I’d stayed. I never got the chance to read her The Jungle Book. She died about seven hours later.
A few weeks later, while going through the gut-wrenching, incredibly painful, salt-in-the-wound, insult-upon-injury, task of going through her affairs, I found The Jungle Book, yellowed with time, in a box.
She’d kept it, all that time.