My father always liked spending Christmas in Miami. We'd pack into the car and head down Route One. There were no Interstates at that time. It was a pleasant drive. Those years the weather was pretty consistent. When it got cold in New York it stayed cold. The minute you crossed the Florida state line, you knew you had entered a tourist's mecca. Not only did palm trees line the roads, but the sun warmed your bones and you shed winter coats for summer gear.
At twelve, I was a very mature, full busted, five-foot-seven-inch tall girl. At that age it used to embarrass me because I was so much taller and more developed than my friends. I was the kid with the big boobs. I never appreciated those remarks.
My father decided to take advantage of my stature. “Let's take Audrey to the dog races with us,” he suggested, grinning.
“She's too young,” Mother argued. “They'll never let her inside the track.”
Never one to be daunted, my father got this idea to dress me up, put some lipstick on me, and pile my hair on top of my head. The transformation was incredible. I actually looked eighteen. I suddenly felt very grown up.
When we got to the race track, no one blinked an eye as I walked through the gates.
“See, Helen,” my father said as he kissed me on the cheek. “I knew we could get Audrey in.”
So our night at the races began. I was having fun at first. As the hours ticked away, and the screams of the betters rang in my ears, all I thought of was how tired I felt. When were we going back to the hotel?
Mother was winning every race. She never checked the “Track Insider”. She'd simply watch the dogs as they paraded in front of the crowd. Then she'd pick one because she liked the way the dog looked. I was fascinated at this strange ability she had. People around us were asking Mother which dog to bet on.
I finally pushed my way through the crowd that surrounded my mother, and tugged at my father's sleeve. I pointed to a nearby bench. “I'm just going to sit down for a while. My feet hurt.”
“Sure, Baby, sure.” He turned back to Mother and I slumped onto the bench.
I fell asleep. The woman turned into the child who needed to be in bed. I vaguely remember Dad waking me up. I slept the whole drive back to the hotel.
My father loved telling the story to our family and anyone who would listen. At first I was embarrassed, but then I realized how proud of me he had been that night. You could hear it in his voice and, for once, Mother didn't say “I told you so.”