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3 The Fledgling» 1920-1941 "Air'pwane! Air'pwane!" That is how, lisping, a typical two-year-old, tearing paper into bits and throwing them into the air, tried to tell the world that: "I want to, 1was born to, 1 MUS T fly!" That is what "Sister Vie" used to tell me about my early yearning for the sky. To me she was "Mom," the gentlest, most devout, loving mother anywhere, ever. Christened Violet Adina Buckley, her middle name should have been Patience. 1 remember Mom teaching me to count by tens, even before 1 began first grade, by using bundles of match sticks, ten to a bundle. And spelling words using phonetics-the "at" family: bat, cat, hat and so on-long before anyone ever thought about Sesame Street. And grammar. The "King's English" way of proper speaking, although 1 must admit that answering, "It is I" when asked, "Who is it?" never did sound right to me. She needed patience, a lot of it, to get me started on the road to education. Together, she and Dad emphasized four things in my rearing: love and serve God, obey your parents, be loyal to your family, and get a good education. Dad was ... Dad. Not Pop. Not a "take-me-out-to-the-ballgame " sort of father and yet not a rigid disciplinarian. Make no mistake, he was firm in demanding no-nonsense obedience, and 1 made sure to make as few mistakes as possible to avoid encounters between his razor strop and my hind parts. But 1felt his love for me 7 8 from his tender lullabies as he rocked his firstborn infant to sleep. We never went to baseball or football games because he did not know those games. He knew cricket because he was a Jamaican: A trip or two to see a cricket match at Van Courtlandt Park in the Bronx was about as close as I ever got to sharing fun with my father at a spectator sporting event. He could swim like a fish and delighted the family with weekend picnics to Long Island beaches (Coney Island, Rockaway Beach, Riis Park Beach) and Interstate Park on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. Half the fun was going and coming home on the Long Island Railroad trains to the beaches and the Dyckman Street ferry across the Hudson River to Interstate Park. The other half was wading in the surf and riding the amusements at Coney Island: For me no roller coaster was too fast, no ferris wheel too high, no merry-go-round too dizzying. Aboard them I was "flying"; I was close to my fantasy heaven. Charles Levy Tucker Dryden, "Dad" to me, was my first hero. A sergeant in the Jamaican Expeditionary Force during World War I, he was deployed to Europe by way of Egypt. His unit came under heavy fire in Belgium and he caught a hunk of shrapnel in his chest. It came within a quarter inch of ending these memoirs before they could even begin. Before his military stint he was a teacher at Mico College (for men) in Kingston. Violet was a teacher at next-door Wolmers College (for women). They met and fell in love but had to postpone marriage plans until Dad's return from the war. Keeping the faith until the Armistice, Mom moved to New York City to await her beloved "Robin." Nine months, two weeks, five days later, on September 16, 1920, I saw the light of day, blessed from the start with two nurturing, loving, in-love parents. To Mom's five sisters, Dad was "Brother Rob," and that became his nickname, used by all adult kinfolk. They were my aunts, all named for flowers: Lilly, Daisy, Myrtle, Hyacinth, and Iris. Affectionately , they called my mother"Sister Vie." So to all our kinfolk my parents were "Brother Rob and Sister Vie" -compatible, unflappable , devout cherubim and seraphim. My aunts Lilly, Daisy, and Myrtle helped rear me, more than they« A-Train will ever know. Older by a few years, their bearing, presence, manners , and behavior taught me what to expect of proper ladies when I began dating. Hyacinth and Iris, one year older and younger than I, respectively, were more like sisters to me, though when we were young they taunted me by insisting that I address them as "Aunt." Of course, in later years whenever introductions to young suitors were required, they declined the title, threatening...


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