My Dad, the infamous Papa Don, was outnumbered as you know. Four daughters. Never got the chance to name any of us Brian. But he eventually got a son-in-law named Brian, so I guess it all worked out. Although our house was filled with estrogen, Papa Don was determined to throw a little testosterone in wherever he could. He taught us to ride our bikes and threw a ball around with us every once in a while.
I can recall a few Christmas mornings when it was apparent Papa Don had won over Mary Ann in the gift-purchasing department. Instead of finding dolls or Barbies under the tree one year, we found a train set. I have to admit it was pretty cool. Though I’m not sure how fun it was, because Papa Don hogged it. Then another year we found Hot Wheels under the tree. I imagine boys loved the little cars and what-not, but all me and my sisters found exciting was the orange Hot Wheel Tracks. I’m sure my generation will understand that those tracks were awesome for sibling-whipping. I quite liked the trains and cars. I guess I was a bit of a tom-boy growing up. I rode my bike every chance I got, climbed trees and ignored my dolls long enough so that my sisters had to become surrogate mothers to them.
Regardless of whether we were girls or boys, Papa Don made sure he fulfilled his parental duties. Besides playing monster with us every day when he came home from work, Mary Ann made sure he helped out in other ways. For example, dragging four little girls to the spendy Beauty Salon would be unheard of. (Well, there was that one time when Mary Ann took us to the Hair Dresser for fancy David Cassidy shag haircuts — the shag haircuts that were glorious until we jumped into our little pool later that afternoon.) The rest of the time we visited “Papa Don’s Discount Salon.” Mom would line us up on the couch, hand Dad the scissors and turn him loose. Tracy would go first. Dad would place her on his lap and get to work with those scissors. He was strictly a Bangs Specialist; he wouldn’t mess with the rest of our hair – that was Mary Ann’s territory. She’d roll our hair up in torture curlers every Sunday night. Papa Don had no formal training in cosmetology as far as I know, so our bangs usually ended up looking something like this:
Yes, if you look closely there are some bangs left there. That’s me on the right and Tracy in the middle holding our younger sister, Coleen. Coleen didn’t have much hair at that time, so she only had to sport the fancy bow. As you can see, what we didn’t have left in bangs, we made up for in curls, thanks to Mary Ann’s torture curlers.
While they were at it, my parents figured there was no need for a dentist in our early years. When we had a loose tooth, Papa Don would step in as DDS. Unlike other fancy dentists, he only needed one tool – the dreaded pliers. Yes, the pliers from his tool box. If he saw us wiggling a loose tooth, he’d tell us to go fetch the pliers and come sit up on his lap. We’d bring the pliers, sometimes crying, or fake-crying just for the drama, and crawl up on his lap. He’d tell us how the Tooth Fairy would be bringing us some money for the tooth, which would help a little. Then he’d demonstrate how he was going to pull our tooth, just to show us that it wouldn’t be a big deal. He’d place the pliers on our loose tooth and tell us that when we were ready, he’d grab the tooth with the pliers “like this” and pull it out “like this.” Then he’d tell us to let him know when we were ready. Of course, while we were sitting there, drumming up the courage to give him the go-ahead, he’d grin and show us the pliers, already holding our tooth. It was magic. It was complete smoke and mirrors. And it worked every time. Dad would pull our tooth right from under our eyes, literally, and we never felt anything. Then we’d skip into the kitchen for a popsicle or a serving of tasty jello.