(This essay is excerpted from Molly D. Campbell’s first book, Characters in search of a novel. Erma Bombeck’s son, Matt, calls it “a wonderful, original book.” A two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Competition winner, Molly credits the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop for allowing her “to gain validation as a person who actually can write.”)
My father was far from ordinary. Other children’s dads were doctors, lawyers and teachers. Their dads went to work in the morning and came home for dinner. Their dads played golf on the weekends. My father was a maestro.
I grew up hearing him play the violin, beautifully. He had a lovely one, with real gold on the pegs, and also on the bow. It had a beautiful velvet-lined case, with little pockets for rosin and extra strings. There was a silk-lined velvet blanket to cover the violin. When he played, I used the case as a doll bed.
I grew up in concert halls, sitting very quietly during rehearsals, where my father stood on a big podium in front of the orchestra, waving his arms. Everyone in the orchestra seemed in awe of my Dad. I thought it was because he was so handsome. But I knew he was the boss of all of those musicians, and I was very proud.
When my father went to work, it was at night. After an early dinner, he would get dressed. I loved this ritual. First the beautiful white shirt with all the little pleats. Pearl buttons. Black pants with a satin stripe down the sides. Cummerbund. Dad had a few different pairs of cufflinks, and I got to choose which ones he wore. I felt so important. Then the shiny patent leather shoes. And finally, the tails and bow tie, which he tied himself. He was a glorious man.
I hated actually going to see him conduct, because those evenings were long and boring. I got tired of watching him in front of the orchestra after about five minutes. My mother had made it clear that there was to be no twitching, no neck craning and no noise. I perfected this, but for years afterwards, I hated going to concerts, remembering the constraints of childhood!
My father was magnificently handsome. He was tall, dark and charming. He was the object of many women’s fantasies, and I think indulged many of them. It made me cherish him all the more, because I think in my childish subconscious, I was afraid one of his admirers might carry him away from us.
The maestro was my biggest fan. He thought I was beautiful when I had pimples. He was the first person to tell me that I should be a writer. He was never too busy to hug, or to listen. We watched “The Tonight Show” together every weeknight. He concocted very interesting late-night snacks.
The Maestro died when I was a young mother. I wish I could go to just one more concert. I wouldn’t move a muscle.
— Molly D. Campbell
Molly D. Campbell writes a blog from her pantry, often in pajamas. She is a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Competition award winner, winning honorable mentions in both the humor and human interest categories in 2010 and 2012. This essay won an honorable mention this year. She self-published Characters in search of a novel, her first book.