glides between barrier islands
and mountain flows
the slender keel
carving delicate wakes
gloam-blue and pine-green,
the summer blue
the saffron glow of
and ruddy glow
of red nylon,
Boston, Ravel, Monk,
through your tranquil chamber
floating at the edge
the vibrant hint of something
into the pale haze of night,
all that you’ve hoped for,
until twilight comes
and the paddles lap
in the deep night
and dip beneath Aries,
drifts beyond the composition.
Today, April 8, 2021, is my Son’s 28th Birthday. It is the first birthday his brother and I are observing in his absence. The images and poem came to me as a reflection of Davin’s true spirit in the natural world; his beloved kayak, a rod and reel, the tunes that shaped his life, and the lifetime of scores that he composed. If he were here on this beautiful day, I believe this is how he would choose to celebrate his life. — Davin, my son, I love you forever…
© Deborah Garcia 2021, All rights reserved
Éire go Bráth
What’s the craic behind Saint Patrick’s Day? I’ve never felt akin to what has always presented to me as an Irish Heritage Day. With all the reveling, parades, and green ale, bar-hopping debauchery, it’s no wonder that visions of leprechauns chasing rainbows, arising from pots of gold coins, headline modern-day digital images on the seventeenth of March.
My father always told me that we were hardly more than a “smidgen” of Irish, and there were no known Irish relatives in either my own generation, nor his. My mother was 100% Magyar. The only Irish folk known to me in close circles, were the Irish kin (by marriage) through my cousins. Before the age of home sputum kits painted molecular chains of relational codes, many foreign transplants of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries melded into the golden pot of American soil, banking on the promise of good work, sustainable family life, and prosperity. But as the generations outstretched the unyielding time-line of presence, lineages became intertwined. While strands of DNA plaited into new complex identities, ancestral ties faded into the distant threads of those who brought us here.
Two-years ago, I learned that I am 9% Irish. The expression of surprise on my father’s face, when he learned his green Éire pedigree comprised 40% of his plasma, was priceless. For all of his eighty years, he has identified himself as mostly German, English and a little Welsh, which still remains true, but pales in comparison to his chromosome markers highlighting the Emerald Isle. More specifically, the village of Schull, in the county Cork, part of the Munster region of Ireland, and eight other administraive counties. This lineage stems from the paternal line he never knew, as his parents separated during WWII, when he was a young boy.
St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious observance in 1631, when the Catholic church established a feast day to honor the fifth century missionary, Patricius. Lore accounts that “Patrick” is the young man who drove the Pagans, metaphorically the snakes, out of Ireland and was lauded for converting the formally Roman, druid-ruled Isle to Christianity. Because “Feast Day” fell during lent each year, people through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries began to heighten it as an excuse to take a break from the ritual abstinence of their pleasures between Ash Wednesday and Easter.
As the Irish population flowed into the United States, the “holiday” took on the more modern, secular conventions that we observe today. What was once a somber mass up to the mid-20th Century in Dublin, was transformed into the spectacle of parties and parades, which began in Boston on March 17, 1737, when a group of elite, Presbyterian, Irishmen came together to celebrate “The great Irish saint” in the name of Irish Nationalism, over a New England Boiled dinner, (The Irish-American thanksgiving of corned beef and cabbage). With the wide-spread arrival of television, displaying all the fun to be had in American streets and pubs, kelly-green shamrocks were imprinted into the commercialized American calendar, along with orange Halloween pumpkins (another holiday of Irish Pagan origin), and red Valentine’s Day hearts , (yet, another Roman holiday celebrataing a saint, theorized to have been merged with the “Christianized” Pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia).
Before the Irish rebellion of 1798 against British rule, the color most associated with St. Patrick’s Day was blue. But during the uprising, Irish rebels wore green in opposition to the red of the British army. Ever since, green has become the emblematic color of Irish solidarity and pride.
Green Beer was first made by a Bronx, New York Doctor in 1914 with a ferrocyanide powder used to whiten clothing, a blue iron salt. If this sounds too risky, play it safe and throw back a Guinness, a shot of the Jameson, or enjoy a slice of soda bread with a dáileog of Irish cream in your brew.
To all the Farrels, Pflums, McAuliffe’s, Twohigs, Rooneys and Donovan’s, whose steadfast courage, high spirits, and genomes persist through centuries, to keep the lot going, I raise a tumbler in the name of St. Patty and good health —
Sláinte and Éire go Bráth!
© 2021 by Deborah A Garcia
Memory is not just a when, recalled in the now. The past is never just the then, a form, an event, a life, that had an essence in a span of something before. Memory is a pulse, coursing through all dimensions of life, like an echo hidden deep inside a mountain, it returns again, and again, as long as there is a resonant body to contain it. The past never leaves this place, where stories are etched into stone, inked onto pulp, intoned into minds, an energy passing through bodies that create substance from visions, sounds, throats, lips, hands. Memories are the lingering traces of sensational vibrations that tremor through bodies, canyons, and cathedrals, unbound by time.
I never expected to find a mountain when I got dressed this morning. I was hoping to find a comfortable underlayment I could wear braless, dressed-up with a cardigan from a drawer I hadn’t opened since the thermometer dipped below 30º F. Opening the cedar chest, hoping for a cover that wouldn’t show my nakedness, I discovered, instead, the story of my life, woven in Ts.
- There’s the blue and pink tie-dye “Cherry Garcia” T – from the time I took the boys to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, VT. We were spending the summer at my fiancé’s Vermont home. We were ordered to leave the house when he had child visitation.
- The black “Feel the Music” T – I purchased to support the New York City artists who provided a creative space for healing through music for families affected by 9/11. They gave instrument lessons to my boys from 2003-2008, friendships and connections that continue today.
- The white “USTA Vermont Tennis 2013 State Champions” T – Dylan wore in the Summer Team tennis program in 10th-grade.
- The plum “Mohonk Mountain House” T – from the first, and last child-free October birthday weekend Dave and I had in 1999, for my 36th birthday.
- The pink “Bear Spring Camps” T – from the last summer (2016) we had on the Maine lake together as a family of five, before the blended family disbanded.
- The violet “New York University Mom” T – bought at the University gift shop during Dylan’s student orientation, in 2015.
- The tangerine “Dog Days of Summer T – from the event to support local dog parks, July 2012. Joni won her first distance disc-dog event.
- The white “Jones Beach” T – I purchased at the Field 4 Bath house in 2002. The boys were 5 and 9.
- The white “Whistle Stop” T – from a friend’s shop in Delaware, where I visited after dropping Davin off at JFK for his Mexican detox rehab treatment, en route to visit my sister in Maryland, September, 2018.
- The “2011 Taco Bell” tennis tournament T – the year Davin won doubles 18’s.
- The navy and gold “Essex High School Band” T – Davin wore for high school pep band at football games.
- The orange and royal blue “Mets” T – Davin wore in his final year of little league in 2005. He was 12. On the back, our name is printed above his favorite number “12”.
- The grey and orange “Mets 2015 National League Championship” T – Davin and I watched all the season games together. He got tickets to a World Series game for himself and his brother. His racing demeanor, and lateness to the gate, punctuated his mental health spiral. I recall feeling happy that the boys were doing something fun together, then sad when Dylan reported the reality of the day.
- The black “Training for Warriors” T – I earned in 2017, The spring I decided to get in shape near the end of my crumbling marriage, Davin returned home besieged by addictions, and my sister with three kids took a nine-month refuge in the virulent sanctum.
- The teal “Ski Big Sky, MT” T – from the February, 2013 break trip I took Richard, Dylan and I to ski, and snowmobile through Yellowstone.
- The midnight blue “Le Massif” T – from our 2011 Quebec ski trip. We stood atop a Northern Hemisphere peak and took our photo upon a trail that tumbled down into the sea at the icy mouth of the St. Lawrence River. I remember the feeling of being on top of the world. We also visited the Ice Hotel and swam in a rooftop pool under a crescent moon in Quebec City.
- The navy “US OPEN 2004” T – Davin got when Daniel Burgess took a group of Freeport Indoor Tennis kids to the US Open Kids Day, at the National Tennis Center in Queens, NY.
- The navy T – with the American flag-impression peace sign on the chest I purchased, with four other T’s, for our new blended family of five to wear on the 4th of July, 2003, weekend at the Mount Washington Hotel. We spread out on a blanket under the spray of cannon fire and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Davin’s favorite orchestral symphony.
- The hot pink “Vail” T – from the week-long ski vacation with Davin and cousins in Colorado, in Feb 2016.
- The purple “Yale University” T – from a three-day weekend in New Haven, CT, May 2012. Davin was in a wildcard draw for the US Open. His personal coach, Raul, was there, coaching and feeding practice balls. It was a nice weekend for us. I remember we found a great little Japanese restaurant and had the best chirashi, loaded with pickled vegetables. Davin won the first two rounds, lost in the third. On the last night, a social worker called to inform me that my sister, L., had a public mental health crisis, and was taken to a psychiatric hospital by police. After returning home from Yale, I drove 370 miles to Long Island to attend a 10 AM patient intake meeting.
- There’s the lemon cream “Alaska” T – with tiny flowers embroidered across the chest, from our wonderous adventure cruise through Alaska, and a day-long train ride on the Alaska Railroad to Whistler. We helicoptered to a glacier, filled 10-year-old Dylan’s pockets with rocks so he could zipline along the Bering Sea, boated into the bay with Orca’s, and white water rafted in Denali. In Whistler BC, we scaled wooden catwalks in a temperate rainforest through miles of ziplines through the canopy, took a private jeep tour up the Coast Mountains to observe bear families, and licked fresh gelato for days.
- The “Beltran Mets” T – I wore to Puerto Rico for Davin and Shina’s high school graduation trip. The hotel staff cheered for the Commonwealth icon ironed on my back. We hiked the El Yunque National Rain Forest, kayaked in a phosphorescent lagoon and ate alcapurría on a street in Fajardo. From a private charter, we reeled in mahi-mahi and yellowfin, and dove into the Caribbean Sea, finishing the evening dining on sushi I sliced in our cliff house kitchen, to the call of the coqui.
- The sky-blue “CUBA” T – from the magical Afro-Latin Jazz Band bus tour Rich and I joined with family friends in the band, in December, 2016. The trip Rich said he always dreamt of taking. The trip where an iron curtain ran the length of the Queen bed at the Melia Habana. Davin took the trip in December, 2012.
- The Navy “International Women’s Writer’s Guild” T – from the first summer conference I attended, in July 2019. A turning point in my life, where I met a new tribe of supportive women writers, encouraging me to write my stories, weeks after my divorce.
- The grey “Urbanfetch” T – my late husband, Dave, got for being a frequent customer of the pre-Instacart dot.com start-up that delivered food and sundries, to Manhattan boomers, c.1999. I recall him raving about the new service that ran his errands and delivered fresh chocolate chip cookies to his office on the 97th floor of One World Trade Center.
- The white “Microsoft” T – Dave got on the last professional conference he attended in May 2001. It was the first trip he took solo, in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” He pedaled a rented bike for twenty miles to rent a jet ski before taxiing to the airport, on the final day. He (being legally blind) had a difficult time navigating in a remote location without the ability to drive, nor access to public transportation. He said he’d never travel alone again. The boys and I greeted him in the airport baggage claim. We were so excited to bring him home.
- The slate grey “Daniel Burgess Turkey Trot tennis T – worn to hit balls on the November day of his 66th birthday, sixty days after he out-breathed into his eternal sleep. Davin composed a ballad to compliment the video tribute I created on Oct, 26th, 120-hours before narcotizing his own breath.
Ts cover my skin in close-fitting threads, interwoven fibers opening to hug my curves and edges, relics where extremities intersect spine, I validate myself into a future where I’ll no longer exist. I’ve worn the souvenirs like badges stitched on a Girl Scout sash, draped over my torso, shoulder to waist, decorating the space within two planes diverging from a common seam.
But it’s not the collected souvenirs folded into the drawer that I wanted all those years, but validation. Because the relics extended me into the evolution of something worthy of remembering and therefore seen. It was that very ceaselessness that I wanted to return to, belong to, again and again.
It’s no accident that the “T” resembles a beam. That angle of supporting strength that holds up bodies across an expanse too wide to bear the load. We’re all inside this house, saying with our angled, load-bearing selves, more, more, more.
I want to insist that our being alive is impressive enough to be worthy of continuation. And so-what, if all I accomplished in my life was providing supportive strength to hold up more bodies.
This letter has taken me eighty-one sleepless nights to write, this being the longest night of the year. It is also the night of the “Great Conjunction” of 2020, when Jupiter and Saturn come the closest to each other since the year 1623—which occurred during the years Galileo was studying the stars. The two planets will nearly converge in the sky to appear as the Christmas star known as the Star of Bethlehem. The two planets appear as a single bright star. But as fate would have it, clouds block my view. The last time this event occurred, you were seven years old.
2000 was the year of the new millennium, a time in history when the world was gripped with fear that global banks were at risk of shutting down because computers were not programmed to read three zeros. It was also our last Christmas together as a complete family. The photo holiday card captioned you and your little brother, in matching pine green sweater vests sitting embraced, in front of our old Kincaid piano. A music certificate award is in the background. The first paragraph of our holiday letter ends, “when what to our wondering eyes should appear but the promise of another wonderful year!” It was our last Christmas together as a whole family. 2000 was the year we drove to Disney World for Easter and visited Aunt Nancy and Uncle John, and your little cousins. You and your dad got lost in the dark on Great Pond, ME after an after-supper fishing venture. That October, your and you and your dad went on a great surprise adventure to pick up the boat he purchased from the New Jersey Marina, across from the World Trade Center and motored it up the Hudson River to New Hamburg, where it was docked nearby your grandparent’s house. You marveled at the ginormous tankers and tugboats you passed and sketched them for your holiday notepad gifts. This was the year you learned to read, write, add, subtract, and multiply. You also learned to ski, roller skate, and canoe. You caught a fly-pop in on a little league diamond, served an ace on the tennis court, and played Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in the holiday piano recital. For Halloween, you wore a fur-lined bomber hat and pushed your stuffed husky on a sled that your dad made of PVC pipe—as Gunnar Kaasin, the sled musher, from the Balto story you watched over and over. You were a Lego master builder, building worlds of your pure imagination. You were having a wonderful life, by all appearance.
Davin, I miss you terribly. Some moments each day, I forget at 6 PM that you won’t be bounding into the kitchen with a bag of groceries; a gallon of plain, unsweetened almond milk, a bag of yogurt-coated pretzels, and pound of Guatemalan coffee beans. And that I won’t hear the whirring rattle of the coffee grinder in the morning, from my office where I’m writing the story of our life. I remember the last meal you prepared for me, It was Wednesday, October 21, you went to Montpelier to the co-op you like, and proudly purchased a pricey filet of bluefish for supper, my favorite. You prepared it in the most delicious light tomato-caper sauce. I was also impressed by the orange cauliflower you sauteed with garlic and delicious spices. I said, “You didn’t have to go all the way to Montpelier to buy me bluefish.” You said, “It’s the only place that gets it. I don’t mind, I know it’s your favorite.”
I want you to come home. From holiday planning, to shopping, to baking, I’m feeling a compounding dirge of crushing grief. I’m having difficulty with time and accepting you won’t be returning. You won’t be calling, or texting, or sending a post card. Twenty-seven Christmas’ together. No, no, I can’t. As the holidays move nearer, the days grow darker. It’s closing-in on me. I’ve received a few Christmas cards; Happy Holidays!, Hoping you find Peace and Joy in the Season and in 2021. I just drop them in a basket, unopened. There are no bows on the maples lining the driveway, no window candelabras, no cards to mail, no Christmas music, nor tree, nor stockings hung from the mantle. The holiday letters that captioned our young lives, are happy memories in an album. Though I fear receiving one in the mail, I’m glad I have the touchstones of you and your brother’s lives, year to year. They are the points of light in the dark nights ahead.
The timeless cartoons, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and now Frosty the Snowman, and Charlie Brown’s Christmas are replaying on Television. I remember the joy, the singing, the lessons. I remember you playing the spirited tunes on the piano. Hearing the music, any piano music, rips me open. You would be playing those tunes now, mixing them on your keyboard into new modern compositions.
All of the wonderful opportunities I steered you towards, the solid and loving relationships you had, the perfectly formed and healthy body, intelligence, and energy. None of it matters, if you’re not meant to survive. I’m glad you had these gifts. I’m glad I was able to hold it all together for you, us. I’m glad you had uncountable good times, adventures, and were loved by many. Despite all of the gifts, you couldn’t love yourself enough. You couldn’t see the value of you in the world, to all the people you had touched. It makes me feel very sad to think, how did I raise and love a human so dispirited, he couldn’t see himself in the world?
I can’t help to ask, what is the lesson? Perhaps today, it is this; Hope is the mortal fray between fear and faith. It is the dreamy guidepost in the journey, the flint that ignites us to continue into the unknown, urging us forward along the path to our becoming. Hope waits at the door of fearful judgement of others and self, faith waits at the door of loving kindness. Don’t react to the fear carried by others, by the unknowing world, your path is not theirs. Look beyond this dark raven to see the love in the shadows, for here is where faith rests and waits for your coming. Here is where hope is no longer needed. Faith is trust in the order of all things, that we are an essential part of everything and everyone. It’s the prize of freedom for not courting fear, for walking beyond the darkness, and standing beneath the million lamps of love.
I am heartbroken. Heartbreak begins the moment we are born and are severed from our mothers. It is the moment we are asked to let go but cannot. It colors, and inhabits, and magnifies each and every day.
We can see it not as the end of the road or the cessation of hope but as the close embrace of the essence of what we have wanted or are about to lose. Heartbreak is an opening to what we love and have loved, an inescapable and often beautiful question of someone who has been with us all along, asking us to be ready for the ultimate letting go.David Whyte, Consolations
Oh, how will I ever return to joy in the awakening of your absence? For twenty years, since your father’s leaving, I’ve made it my daily practice to capture joy by cheering you on through home plate, recording your music recitals, and baking it into buttery Christmas toffee. Joy is a measure of our relationship to death and our living with the darkness, my old friend. Joy is a practice of selfless generosity, a deep form of love. It is the raw engagement with the seasonality of existence, the fleeting presence of those we love, understood as gift. It is the beautiful frontier between loving presence and a new expanding absence going in and out of our lives; faces, voices, music, the weight of a child in your lap with a book, the aromas of the sea air on a summer’s first day, or a wood fire on a long winter’s night, or the felling of a Christmas spruce on a snowy field, or the taste of amber maple syrup dripping over warm apple pancakes on your tongue. I miss this all with you. I miss you feeling all of this in your life. In our life. I miss feeling the joy and seeing the joy flow out through you. I remember the joy and I miss you. Miss you. Miss you.
© Deborah Garcia 2020, All rights reserved
Davin, my sweet, beautiful son, I have loved you for twenty-eight years. From the moment I heard the eager beat of your heart, when I saw the shadow of the shape of you in my womb, I was changed. You gave me a name, Mommy. Holding my hand, you walked the bewildering journey beside me, through this vague paradox. What can a mother say about her beloved son so injured by the World, that his spirit could no longer endure – gravity? I pray for your soul to find peace in the resolve it seeks, that you curl in the loving arms of your father, that you feel comfort in the warmth of the glow emanating from the hearts who’ve been touched by your – brilliant light. This mother wants you to know that your life matters. Your cast is wide, extending deep into the mortal expanse. I long for your arrival in my dreams, my dear sweet boy, to hear your beautiful music as I draw you into the fold of my loving bosom and cradle your tender soul. I love you forever, Mommy.
© Deborah Garcia 2020 All rights reserved
April 8, 1993 – October 31, 2020
With deepest sorrow, we announce that Davin Richard Garcia, age 27, of Essex Junction, Vermont, joined his father in Heaven October 31, 2020, unexpectedly. He was born April 8, 1993, in Rockville Centre, New York, the beloved son of David and Deborah (nee Rieb) Garcia. He resided in the town of Freeport, New York, where he attended Lawrence-Woodmere Academy through the ninth grade, until his family relocated to the town of Essex Junction Vermont. He graduated from Essex High School in 2011, where he played clarinet in the wind ensemble, piano and alto saxophone in the jazz band, and tennis. He also played clarinet in the Vermont Youth Symphony Orchestra. Davin achieved musical accolades with the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) and the Vermont All State Music Festival, achieving first chair in Clarinet his senior year. He attended Babson College to study entrepreneurship from 2012-2014. He was a mentor and board member with the Teen Center of Essex Junction during his high school years.
Davin played baseball from the age of 6 to 16, playing high school baseball for two years before switching to Tennis. He played competitive tennis throughout his youth in the USTA Eastern Section, Long Island Region and New England Region. He was co-captain of the Essex High School tennis team in his senior year when he played an undefeated season as second and first singles, leading the team to state championships. He was a member of the Babson College tennis team during his time there. He also enjoyed skiing, kayaking, boating, fishing, and rebuilding his car and boat.
Davin studied piano for over 25 years, clarinet for ten years, and saxophone. He was an accomplished artist who enjoyed composing works blending classical, jazz, Afro-Latin jazz, new age, rock, rap, and other genres.
Davin was an old soul with a gentle manner, who approached life with a playful humor that drew people to him through laughter, with love. Family, friends, and acquaintances will forever feel his loss, our loss.
Davin has joined his father, David Garcia, whose life was taken in the September 11th attacks of the World Trade Center. He is survived by his mother, Deborah Garcia of Essex Junction, VT, his brother Dylan of Brooklyn, NY, his paternal grandmother, Hiro Garcia of Wappinger’s Falls, NY, his maternal grandparents, Richard and Dorene Rieb of Moriches, NY, his Uncle Richard Garcia of Essex Junction, VT, his cousin Shina Ellis-Garcia of Queechee, VT, his Aunt Wendy and Uncle John and cousins of Dunkirk, MD, and a large circle of extended aunts, uncles and cousins. He is also pre-deceased by his paternal grandfather Stanley Garcia, and his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Rieb.
Davin was laid to rest in a family plot beside his father at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, Poughkeepsie, NY on November 13. A charitable fund TBA will be planned in his memory in the near future.
Davin, I pray that you find the peace you long for in the arms of your daddy. I love you forever, my beautiful boy.
Please join us today, holding space, embracing my beautiful boy in a circle of love, so that his spirit is embraced in the loving arms of the soul circle we share as his body is returned to ash over the next two hours. I pray that he finds the peace he seeks in the loving presence of his father, David, the grandmother he never knew, Elizabeth, and his popop Stan.
Davin, I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.Munsch, 1986
Heaven resounds with your beautiful music. We shall meet in my dreams.
Journey onward, my sweet, beautiful boy.
On the eve of my 34th birthday, my husband walked through the front door around 7 pm after a full day of work. He greeted me with a bouquet of yellow roses, wrapping his arms around my waist in his usual way, while lifting pot lids on the stove. “Mmm, how’s my dear today? I brought you some birthday flowers.” He said his day began fine, but was very busy and didn’t end well.
“I have to go back into the office tomorrow morning, for something brief, I can take Davin with me.” On a rare Saturday, he might have an IT Association meeting, but he rarely worked unless he was doing a favor for a friend’s company.
“Oh? What’s going on?”
“Nothing really, I just forgot something that I need to work on at home, we’ll be back by noon.”
1997 had been marked by the birth of our second son, an SUV purchase and our tenth wedding anniversary. Our lives were flourishing at a fast and steady pace, an ebullient fusion of career building, financial planning, and life celebrations. We were crystalizing our kindred substance in time and place. Both Dave and I were self-employed, each managing three contract jobs in our respective fields, and between pre-K play dates and Good Night Moon, we were restoring a 100-year old Dutch colonial, breaching the gambrels to stretch into as much square-footage as possible.
Amidst the intensity of this period, we paired our birthday canonization down to simple affairs; a nice meal, a card, a cake, a token. A weekend birthday might lend to a family outing. This would be the first year we’d snap birthday photos as a complete family.
After dropping father and son at the station for a 10 AM train, I returned home with our nine-month-old to catch up on laundry, and sewing stripes on the lion costume I was fashioning from orange fleece-wear, for Davin’s Halloween costume. Two-and-a-half hours later, Dave and Davin caught the bus from the station, returning to 15 Morris Street with a shopping bag containing a large, white bakery box. Dave had a favorite bakery he liked to get special occasion pies and cakes from, as well as a favorite Jamaican jerk grill, and a favorite jeweler.
“Dear, you went into the city to get me a cake?”
“Yes, and no. This was the bad part of yesterday. I left the cake in the lounge fridge.”
“Oh my goodness, you didn’t have to do this, we could have had cake on Monday.”
“No, I had to, it’s all good dear, Davin and I had a nice time riding the train, subway and bus together.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw what emerged from that box. Our favorite cake, applesauce-carrot. It was the most beautiful presentation of culinary art I’d ever seen. green wisps cascading down the verge like falling leaves.
He slid a new album of romantic sonatas into the CD player and presented me with a notecard and a small silver box containing blue topaz earrings, complementing July’s anniversary pendant. We’d only snap three more birthday photos, but for twenty-three Octobers the vivid impression of that magnificent pastry inspirits my birthday.
I don’t remember the meal, if he smoked a turkey or ordered out, yet what I do remember are the lush textures of the cake, the glinting light of topaz, the amaranthine avowal, and the incantation of Clair de Lune wafting gently in the breeze. Thirty-four pink-swirled candles blazed like an imperishable sun. Contained in my breath, was a wish for at least as many more birthdays together as there were candles on my cake. A devotion unfading.© 2020, Deborah Garcia
You think the wonderful people in your life are going to be around as long as you, especially those in your generation. Life moves fast, a season passes after you’ve said “let’s do lunch”, a birthday passes with a text message greeting, a pandemic hinders plans to make anticipated trips to visit friends and family. Then the goddess Fortuna snaps her fingers, click, a car crashes and a sister’s brain is smashed. Click, a plane crashes into a skyscraper and a husband is dead. Click, a friend goes to sleep, never to awaken.
Nineteen years after my husband was killed, a friend called me on the anniversary to catch up on our lives, as he has every year since we moved from the village of Freeport, New York to Vermont in 2009. It was 4:32 PM, the boys and I had just re-united in Dylan’s Brooklyn apartment from a long day that began with an 8 AM ceremony at the September 11th Memorial in Manhattan, and ending with a ferry ride across the East River to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where we parted for awhile. A pleasant day, that was unremarkable except for the chorus of messages which flood my phone and social media notifications like a long dirge, most to which I decline to respond until the 12th. We were tuned into the men’s Tennis US Open, playing out just fifteen miles up the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Zverev and Carreño Busta were bidding for their first chance at a Grand Slam in the men’s singles’ semi-finals when my phone chimed, displaying “Daniel Burgess”. I tapped the green circle arresting my screen, “Hi there,” I said.
“Hey beautiful, how are you? I’ve been thinking about you and the boys all day, where are you?”
“We’re all together, in Dylan’s apt. in Brooklyn, watching the Open.”
“Really, Oh my God, where in Brooklyn?”
“That’s right down the road from where I used to live when I was in college at Long Island University!”
“I went to Brooklyn College.”
“Ah, they were our rivals. Beat one brother never got to beat the other. How long will you be in town?”
“Just until tomorrow.”
We chatted for several minutes, catching up on the Cliff Notes of each other’s lives; work, family, health. “You have to come to Freeport next trip. I miss you guys, what are the boys up to?” I handed the phone to Davin and they chatted for several minutes before the phone was passed to Dylan. Dylan took his and Daniel Jr’s phone numbers as they discussed plans to arrange some hitting time. I hadn’t noticed until September 29th, that Daniel had sent me a text message: Fri, Sep 11, 9:32 PM – “It was so nice to hear your voice today, and the kids, all made my day more meaningful.”
We met Daniel Burgess in the summer of 1999, when a friend told my six-year (Davin) about the fun he was having playing tennis at Freeport Indoor Tennis, home of The Daniel Burgess Tennis Academy. When I called the tennis center, Dan invited Davin to join his friend for a complimentary lesson.
Dan approached us with a warm smile and mellow tone as though he were welcoming us into his hearth. The small lounge was buzzing with parents and grandparents chatting while their charges took lessons in the court one level below. Pros were on the courts giving lessons, working the desk, and jabbering with colleagues, parents and kids. Most days, Bob T., the pro shop owner, usually had a lively but very serious chess or backgammon game going on with a pro or a teen. High School teens hung out there for hours, long after their tennis sessions had ended, including his school-aged sons. Food seemed to always be floating around, especially pizza. Whenever Dan ordered food for himself, he always asked if anyone wanted anything. If he had an errand to run, he said to the kids hanging out in the lounge, “who’s coming with me to pick up Kenneth, pizza, racquets?” If a parent had a conflict or was running late he’d say, “I’ll pick him/her up, or, go do what you have to do, I’ll get them home. Daniel was often seen with every seat in a van or SUV filled with kids on their way to team tournaments, the U.S. Open Kids day in Flushing Queens, and to and from his summer camp at Northeast Park, which is across the street from his Freeport home. He also sponsored young pros from the Caribbean islands to play and work in his programs, helping to arrange lodging and transportation. In summers, Dan ran a low-cost summer Police Athletic League (PAL) tennis program on the two courts in Northeast Park, just steps from his Freeport home, transporting all kids who would not otherwise had been able to participate. My boys participated in the camp and Davin and I also volunteered as instructors, at times.
Freeport Indoor Tennis
Freeport Indoor Tennis was like a community center, with a flurry of activities for youth on weekends, weekdays after school hours, and school vacations. It also functioned as a hub for section USTA junior tournaments of all levels, adult leagues, and lessons. Most remarkably, it was a social polestar where people of all ages, races and religions gathered, a recess from their worries, where everyone was happy to be, and glad you came. A place of belonging, a place to play, on a level playing ground, to give 60+ minutes of everything you’ve got, so you could return to the world with positive energy. Sitting on the stools with parents, grandparents, and pros infront of the one-way window while viewing the action of our children in their lessons and matches, continuing the narratives of our ordinary lives like they were never meant to end, the pop of tennis balls in the background of domino tiles clicking on the table behind us, were the touch points of all who attended.
Daniel Burgess Tennis Academy
The Daniel Burgess Tennis Academy is where both of my boys, myself, and my niece (when visiting from Vermont), began and developed the game of our lifetimes. It became our family affair. It was not only a venue for lessons, but for fun Saturday afternoon games, ladder matches, USTA tournaments, school vacation camps, and summer team tennis, all of which the three kids participated in. I joined a day ladies league and had a blast at the afternoon drop-in-clinics twice per-week of ninety-minute fast-paced drills and entertaining Dan-tics. A dozen or more adults chasing balls, playing together, and encouraging each other to let loose and improve their skills. In June, Daniel was named Hometown Hero by the Long Island Herald where he was quoted saying: “Everyone loves baseball, soccer, football…but those team sports aren’t for everyone. Tennis is something anyone can try out and play. Get me the kids who do’t want to play the other sports. I’ll gladly take them.”
Dan provided personalized encouragement for my niece (Shina), who was highly conscientious of her inexperience and athleticism overall, to challenge her apprehension by engaging her in fun group drills. She had so much fun volleying, target shooting, and running “around the world” that she was unaware she was learning and gaining confidence in herself. A few years later, she joined USTA Summer Team Tennis for our local Vermont tennis club, as well as for the Essex High School Girls team. Shina currently resides in a Vermont tennis community, enjoying the fun and fitness of the sport with her fiancé and her new extended family and friends. Davin played many USTA singles tournaments in the Eastern Long Island, Metro, and New England sections. He rallied an undefeated season as second singles in his senior year in high school, bringing the team to state championship. He also played on a college tennis team. Dylan played third singles on the high school tennis team and took the Vermont State Doubles championship, with a partner, in his senior year.
Service Break Point
In 2009, the building owner passed on Dan’s purchase bid, selling the tennis facility to a sports entertainment company. This was a very sad time for the Freeport Indoor tennis community, akin to the closing of Cheers. Dan resorted to providing his services in other local established clubs, where most of his fans followed. During this transitory period, he also served on the board as president of the USPTA/Eastern Division, as President of the USTA Eastern Section Long Island Region, chair of the USTA Eastern Diversity and Inclusion Committee, he directed tennis programming for two local PALs, and served as an Ethics committee member of the Incorporated Village of Freeport. He also created the USTA Eastern Long Island newsletter, “On The Ball”. For a decade Dan worked to rally support from other municipalities in Nassau County to lease low-use courts and create his own tennis facility. This was his dream. A culmination of all that he strived for. A home, server’s advantage, for the foundation of the sound principles of fitness, teaching, and community service, which he spent a lifetime building and carried in his soul. He drew up a business plan, procured ten investors, myself included, and presented his proposals to take over the neglected courts of various town facilities to the Town of Hempstead. However, after years of negotiations and modified plans, the factions could not come to an agreement, the Daniel Burgess Tennis Academy would not have its own house, and was dissolved.
Learning Institue of Tennis, Life Skills & Sportsmanship
Dan was not about to give up the breakpoint. About two years ago, with limited funds, he approached me with enthusiasm, his idea of starting a non-profit tennis-based organization of life-skills development. The Learning Institute of Tennis, Life Skills & Sportsmanship (LITLSS), (of which I am a board member) launched in 2019 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization devoted to providing tennis education, life skills mentoring and peer tutoring to children in communities surrounding Freeport. “We offer community-based educational enrichment opportunities for youth through a variety of programs designed to foster self-respect and positive leadership values. It’s not just about learning to play tennis, but about working on improving yourself and seeing some growth.” Despite the restrictions on programs due to the pandemic, LITLSS obtained grants to provide summer and fall outdoor programming on the courts and playground across the street from the Burgess home, renamed: Bishop Frank O. White Park. Children ages 4-16 enjoyed tennis, music, dance, writing and reading enrichment, and park cleanup (https://www.tennislifeskills.org/).
Soon after I was widowed in 2001, Daniel said, “you need to play tennis, hit a hundred-thousand balls, I’ll teach you.” It got me out of the house and my grief headspace when the kids were in school, expanded my world with new relationships, and gave me attainable goals…and some fun. Freeport Indoor Tennis became our second home. He picked up the boys, drove them to his academy, to Queens, to tournaments, gave them dinner, took them shopping for my birthdays, drove them home. An unexpected solid in our lives.
Daniel Burgess was a man with an extraordinary adoration for his sons, a fierce passion for the game of tennis, and a wholehearted fondness for people with a soft spot for kids. Tennis was his frame for teaching the fundamentals for gaining one’s individual advantage in life: serve, approach, rally, follow through, love. He served up the principles of sportsmanship, tolerance, goal setting, fortitude, courage, self-forgiveness, praise, and charity. He was all in, on the court and off. Which is exactly where he was, on a warm Sunday afternoon, with his adult sons, teaching kids, until he went to sleep, and his big heart burst.
Daniel, I’m heartsick over your sudden passing. My friend, big brother from another mother, unselfish mentor to my fatherless boys, does not encompass the complex of the wonderful man you were. Incomprehensible loss to the Eastern, Long Island division, USTA junior tennis world, and the families, children, and communities you served. How you saved us twenty years ago. I love you. Devoted family man, compassionate teacher, faithful soul-friend, indelible.
“I’m just doing what I love”Daniel Burgess