Thanksgiving Guest Columnist Frank Cavallaro: Why I Write For My Daughters

Frank Cavallaro, a long-time resident of East Meadow, Long Island, is father to three daughters. Schooled as a graphic designer, he joined several advertising agencies but eventually went out on his own and added copywriting to his list of services. Later in life, he entered the financial services business, where he eventually became a teacher in continuing education.

Dear Laura, Jennifer and Kim,

A basement flood last January forced me and my wife to review some of what we had saved throughout our marriage – in boxes, placed out sight.The years had withered away the sentimental value that some of those items once held for us.

Others had become more precious, like the yellowing letter from my father to my mother, written in blue-black fountain pen ink many years ago. Holding that letter in my hand instantly connected me to him; transcending 65 years, I lived his thoughts at the moment he was writing them. Reading it made me sad of how little he wrote.

When I was a boy, my father told stories about his youth – how he was born in New York, then at four years old sent to Italy to live with family, only to return to New York at age 12, unable to speak English, and how he was bullied for that.

My father told me other stories, too – about fighting back, trying to fit into a new world, the deaths of his two younger teenage sisters and the death of his father.

When he died, those stories died with him.

Unfortunately, the spoken word fades with the memory of the listener.

My mother’s writing was confined to recording times and places on the backs of black-and-white photographs taken during the 1940s, and to grocery lists.Much about my parents will therefore always remain unknown.

Three years ago, I started to write essays to record some of my most meaningful and memorable experiences growing up in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Originally, I meant these accounts to entertain and enlighten you, my three daughters. But you were always too busy or too bored to hear me tell these stories out loud. Soon I had 65 essays in all.

I recounted, for example, how I saw a live chicken beheaded on my aunt’s farm and served as dinner just an hour later. More humanely, I reminisced about my boyhood cocker spaniel.

I also realized that my grandchildren might enjoy these stories, too, and so wove in historical references to matters that had fascinated me as a child – how spiders behave, the steam locomotive, the gravity-defying gyroscope.My hope is they will see the world as I saw it then, and as I still see it today – as a place that endlessly arouses my curiosity.

With any luck, these stories will someday mean as much to you and my grandchildren as my father’s letter does for me.


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