Turning Five

I'm not sure how old I was in this photo--but it can't be a lot more than five!

I’m not sure how old I was in this photo–but it can’t be a lot more than five!

Tears flooded my pillow on the eve of my fifth birthday.

Lying in my bed on Lawn Ridge Road in Orange, New Jersey, I couldn’t stop thinking about the milestone to come. First I would be five, I reasoned. And then I would be twenty. And then I would be old. My life was almost over.

In vain my mother reassured me that five year olds all over the world appeared happy with their lot—and that I had quite a few years to go before my life ended. I refused to believe her. It was hours before I fell asleep, exhausted with worry.

I repeated the pattern when I turned ten. My mother, who had spent many years as an elementary school teacher, tried to convince me that ten was one of the best ages a person could turn.

In retrospect, I realize that she was right. Ten is a golden year, when children are secure and knowledgeable and coordinated, and their hormones haven’t kicked in to confuse things. At nine years and 364 days, however, I was convinced that the next day I would have one foot in the grave. Maybe even a foot and a half.

Over the years, I learned to handle my fear of aging. Having noticed that the numbers divisible by five seemed the most daunting, I decided at the age of 20 never to reach one of those numbers again. When the calendar wanted me to turn 25, I turned 24 for the second time. The next year I went straight to 26. I stayed there for a while; 26 seemed like a good age.

Eventually, I stopped changing ages altogether. I still celebrated my birthday—who doesn’t love a birthday party?—but I eventually established a practice of turning 39 year after year after year. If it was good enough for Jack Benny, it was good enough for me.

I could probably find a therapist to explain and treat my fear of aging. I’m no dummy, however, and I’m pretty sure I understand the cause of this phobia. I was very smart at a very early age. As a consequence, for the first 20 years or so of my life I was generally the youngest person in my social set to enter a grade in school or play a role in a play or read a “grownup” book or learn a mathematical skill.

I defined myself by my youth. Any threat to that youth—and the calendar is the ultimate threat to youth—seemed to threaten my essence.

I spent most of my life worrying about aging. When at the age of 27 I saw the first gray hairs glinting on my head in the rearview mirror of my car I almost ran the car off the road in panic.

I called my mother to tell her about this incident. At the time she was in her 60s and still had NO gray hair. (I inherited my father’s hair; he looked like a brillo pad for much of his life.) “Is the car all right?” she asked.

I was indignant. “Your daughter’s hair is turning gray, and all you care about is a mechanical device?” I huffed into the phone.

I soon found that l’Oreal could help me with the gray hair—but not with the aging.

I often identified with a line near the end of Richard II in which the doomed king muses, “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”

A couple of years ago, my fear of aging began to abate.

A recent photo. DEFINITELY old(er)--but happy.

A recent photo. DEFINITELY old(er)–but happy.

I had just finished Pulling Taffy, my memoir about caring for my mother in her last years when she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I spoke at women’s clubs, church groups, and senior centers about the strategies I had developed over time for caring for her and the lessons we had learned together.

One evening during the question-and-answer session that followed one of my talks a woman thanked me for the knowledge I was sharing, noting that she would put it to good use.

It suddenly hit me that the most valuable part of my talks—and indeed the most valuable part of me—was the experience and knowledge I had developed over the years.

I would no longer be the youngest in most of the circles I would frequent. But I could try to be one of the wisest, I realized.

Now I believe that I haven’t wasted time. I have invested it. My wrinkles aren’t signs of decay. They are signs of life.

I have to admit that I’m still officially 39. And I’m not allowing my hair to go gray. One has one’s standards to uphold.

I no longer get upset if someone accidentally looks at my driver’s license and discovers my birth year, however. I have too many things to do, too many new things to learn, and too many lessons to share.

When I REALLY become old (in 30 years or so), I’ll be awesome.

Meanwhile, I have come to appreciate age everywhere, particularly in fiction, where older characters often have some much more … well … character than youthful heroes and heroines.

Don’t most people, secretly, prefer Endora to Samantha in Bewitched? I certainly do. She’s much more colorful, much more dramatic, much more fun. And she’s not afraid of her own powers….

endoraweb

I Love Living in a Small Town!

Looking for a Good Meeting in Hawley, Massachusetts

Life  in Hawley, Massachusetts, pickles me Tink.

I recently became chair of our local volunteer arts council. This group, the Charlemont-Hawley Cultural Council, distributes funds once a year allocated to the towns of Charlemont and Hawley by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The grants go to projects involving the arts and the humanities, often with an educational component.

I had been a semi-active member of the council for the past few years. It often met when I was out of town, but I managed to participate by reading grant proposals and relaying my recommendations to the rest of the group.

This summer our council got an email from the state informing us that if no one volunteered to serve as chair (Mary Campbell of Charlemont, who epitomizes community spirit, had held the post as many years as she was legally able to) the council would receive no funds from the state for 2013. There was email silence for a while, and then I broke down and said I’d take on the job.

The council supports events that are important to our community, including Mohawk Trail Concerts, our local chamber-music series; many special programs in the local schools; and the Charlemont Forum, a summer lecture series on ethics and politics. It has even supported me in the past, giving me money to help publish my cookbook and write my food blog. It seemed heartless (not to mention ungrateful) not to step in.

From left to right: Joanne MacLean, Julia White, Ellen Miller, Andrea Santos, Pam Shrimpton, and Lida Forbes at last night’s meeting

The council met yesterday evening at the Hawley Town Office to discuss who would get funds in 2013. The council received more applications than it has in any other year so the process of making decisions was fascinating if occasionally frustrating. We had applications from schools, theater groups, the senior center, both towns’ historical societies, and individual artists, scholars, and musicians.

Our group, composed of four members from Charlemont and three from Hawley, worked swiftly and cheerfully together to find just the right combination of recipients to receive this year’s allocation. Pam Shrimpton of Hawley noted with delight how much fun it was to go to a meeting in which she actually got to make decisions instead of listen to endless (sometimes pointless!) discussion. We all felt lucky to be able to help worthy groups and individuals.

We nibbled on a little freshly baked pumpkin bread. And we were entertained by our almost-audience for the meeting. In keeping with the state’s open-meeting law, we had posted the time and date of our proposed meeting at both town halls, noting that the public was invited to attend.

In the end, the only members of the public who seemed interested in joining us were the farm animals across the road from the Hawley Town Office. The calves mooed at us as they surveyed the flowers outside the door.

And we had to shoo several chickens away from the doorway.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Obviously, to go to a Cultural-Council meeting!

I have a feeling the Cultural Council in Boston doesn’t have nearly this much fun….

Autumn in New York

I know, I know, it’s not QUITE autumn. But I found myself humming the song “Autumn in New York” last weekend—even singing it at one point, to the huge embarrassment of my young nephew Michael!—as my family and I spent a couple of whirlwind days in the Big Apple. The whirlwind applied to the emotions involved as well as the pace of the days.

The main purpose of our sojourn in the city was to attend an auction at Sotheby’s. In April my brother David contacted the auction house about selling several items from our parents’ collection of Indian art. We were/are in need of money, and we were also a bit nervous about having a lot of art in our homes without being able to afford to insure it adequately.

Since our initial contact, we have spent a lot of time talking on the phone with the wonderful staff at Sotheby’s, saying goodbye to paintings (I will particularly miss the toy that used to hang on my wall here in Massachusetts), and working on the catalogue essay about our parents.

This toy (pictured on my wall) has now gone to a new home.

I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to be at the auction, watching paintings I had lived with all my life go out into the wider world, but David and his wife Leigh convinced me that it would be an interesting experience. So on Saturday I boarded the Megabus in Hadley, Massachusetts, and sailed down the highway toward the metropolis.

The bus ride was delightful, particularly the spectacular drive down Fifth Avenue when we finally reached the city. From my perch in the front of the bus’s upper story I could see women promenading in colorful African-inspired costumes in Harlem, crowds clustered in front of the Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museums, the lush greenery of Central Park, and the lively windows of elegant department stores and boutiques.

The View from the Bus

We all stayed in a tiny suite in a hotel near Times Square; the windows seemed almost brighter at night than by day thanks to the area’s signature neon. I do love New York. It’s like a giant nightlight. On Saturday evening we ate fabulous Brazilian food.

Before dinner, however, we stopped in at the reception for Asia Week at Sotheby’s. There we saw our art in a new context. We also had the opportunity to look at exquisite Chinese scrolls, fans, and furniture that were to be offered at auction later in the week.

On Sunday morning we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’re trying very hard to convince Michael that New York is a place to absorb culture, not just shop at Nintendo World and FAO Schwartz. Being a 12-year-old boy, he was particularly taken with the displays of weapons and armor, although we did manage to sneak in a little art along the way.

Michael and David survey armor.

Sunday afternoon we saw the comedy Peter and the Starcatcher. I hadn’t seen a show in New York in years so I had convinced the family to book discount tickets in advance. When I discovered that David, Leigh, and Michael had dinner plans with friends for Sunday evening, I quickly ran to another theater and bought myself an orchestra seat (full price—ouch!) for the evening performance of An Enemy of the People. A girl can always use a little Ibsen in her life.

The auction itself, which took place on Monday afternoon, was fascinating. Most of the art was displayed via video, but a few key pieces (including a couple of ours) were brought to the auction room. Just before the auction a man in a cherry picker zoomed about the room to point spotlights at the works.

Bidders were “present” in three ways: in the room, on the other end of several phones monitored by Sotheby’s employees, and on the internet. The auctioneer, Henry, could see the web bids on a special screen in the back of the room; he was very suave and smart keeping all the different types of bids straight.

The screen at the front of the room showed a picture of the piece or pieces up for bid at the moment, along with the amount of the current bid in a variety of currencies. I was a little weepy as we said goodbye to the lovely lady pictured below, but watching the bidding distracted me from my tears.

Some of our pieces did very well, exceeding the amounts our team—Priyanka, Laurie, Jackie, and Henry—had predicted. Some attracted a little less attention (and money!) than they and we had hoped.

Apparently, the rupee isn’t doing well vis-à-vis the dollar at the moment. So Sotheby’s had trouble finding bidders for the centerpiece of the collection, a large canvas by the late M.F. Husain.

We talked to Priyanka about it just before the auction and decided that we didn’t want to lower its minimum price too much. We are fond of the painting, which my father acquired in the early 1970s because the artist wanted it to go to a good home and didn’t want to sell it to anyone else.

In the end it will come home to us, as will a couple of other pieces that didn’t meet their minimum bids. We’re actually thrilled about this. We could have used a little more money. Who couldn’t? I’m still trying to figure out how I’ll pay all my bills going forward. But we also love the art, both for itself and as a link to our late parents.

This large piece will return to David and Leigh’s house.

Happily, that link actually grew stronger through the process of consigning the rest of the art for sale. Leigh and David threw themselves into the task of doing research on the art and our parents’ reasons for collecting, and I wrote the essay about Jan and Abe that opens the catalogue. The photo below, which we found while going through boxes of old papers, illustrated the essay. We think it was taken around 1960.

Jackie, who did the rest of the writing for the catalogue, told us that she, Laurie, and Priyanka fell in love with the photo when I sent it in. (They all watch Mad Men and love the 1960s.) She ran into Priyanka’s office with the image and said, “Meet the Weisblats!”

Left to right: Laurie, Priyanka, and Jackie in front of one of our (former) paintings by Ram Kumar

As I wrote the essay and my siblings and I edited it together, we gleaned new information about our parents. I now actually know what my father did for a living … more or less. (When asked in my youth, I always responded that his profession consisted of talking on the telephone.)

We have a renewed appreciation for their energy, their openness to new experiences, and the ways in which they reached out to people all over the world.

And of course we appreciate their taste in amassing such a lovely collection of art … and in producing such a wonderful family. They were with us in spirit at Sotheby’s, and much of their art will continue to adorn our walls for years to come.

Good Food and Warm Hearts

As my brother pointed out on Saturday, our mother loved a good party. So did our father. Here they are celebrating in Delhi in 1971.

Last Saturday about 60 people gathered to remember my mother at the Play House here at Singing Brook Farm in Hawley, Massachusetts.

Up until the last minute we weren’t entirely sure how many people were coming. I did ask people to let me know … but I wasn’t worried when I didn’t hear from a lot of them. I knew there would be plenty of food–there always is at pot lucks–and plenty of good company. Of course, I was right. (I usually am.)

In the end we were missing a few people we expected (a couple of them called a day or two later and asked me to remind them when the party was!) but gained a few we hadn’t expected but were thrilled to see.

The day was pleasant enough to enable some guests to sit outside to eat lunch. We all came inside when it was time to remember Jan/Taffy officially.

Many of the speakers and guests were relatives. My mother’s siblings Lura and Bruce were in attendance, full of memories and good cheer. Aunt Lura was particularly thrilled that all six of her children had come, along with several grandchildren and even a couple of great-grandchildren.

Bruce and Lura (Courtesy of Cousin Toby David)

We also had honorary relatives—several of my childhood cohorts from Singing Brook Farm; my sort-of cousin Eric, nephew of one of my mother’s closest and most colorful college friends (We’ll always have Paris, Eric!); dear Anna, whose father went to graduate school with mine and whose children were like grandchildren to my mother; and Amy and Lyzz, childhood friends whose mother was my mother’s business partner and who looked pretty much the same as they did when they were kids. Lots of neighbors showed up—and my mother’s  beloved caregiver, Pam, brought not only herself but enough tea sandwiches to feed the whole crowd.

People spoke of my mother’s literal and figurative equilibrium, her … forthrightness (a much more diplomatic word than rudeness, don’t you think?), her brains, her humor, and her giant smile. My sister-in-law Leigh noted that Taffy viewed her as adding to the family rather than taking my brother away, a good attitude in a mother-in-law!

I didn’t speak officially, but Alice Parker Pyle and I led the group in a couple of Taffy-appropriate songs … and I concluded the festivities by reciting one of her favorite poems, “The Owl and the Pussycat.” She always performed this verse with great gusto and drama; I like to think I replicated a little of her style.

Here my cousin Pat imitates my mother’s style of oratory.

As I looked around at the group in the Play House my heart warmed. There I was, surrounded by people I loved … my own playmates and my mother’s playmates, plus people of a variety of ages down to the very young Michael, Elijah, Audrey, and Malia. It felt as though we were all joyfully eating, drinking, and talking inside a kaleidoscope of the past, present, and future.

At the center of that kaleidoscope was our mother, who as my brother pointed out early on always enjoyed a good party.

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
          The moon,
          The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

If you’d like to hear my recitation, click on the play button below. I apologize if the poem is a little hard to hear; I’m still working on recording technique!

Visit my food blog for a recipe from the day’s feast. And if you have any memories of my mother to share, please leave them in a comment!

School’s Out!

From the family albums:
Jan and Abe bring my older brother David home from the hospital.

I went to my last writing workshop last week. As I wrote a few weeks back, this writing group was sponsored by the local hospice organization and was designed to help the bereaved deal with their grief. I decided to attend because I had always wanted to see what a writing group would be like.

In general the experience was fascinating. I enjoyed listening to the other participants’ essays about their lost loved ones and their loss. In the end, however, I am glad the thing is over. As the weeks went by, I continued to feel out of synch with my fellow grievers, who seemed, in their writing, to be stuck in the past.

When I write about the past–and those of you who read my blogs regularly will know that I certainly do–I do so to analyze things that happened, people whom I knew, in the hope that those things and people can inform me in my path forward through life.

I write to construct my life, not to deconstruct it. And I felt that the group was mainly deconstructing, that it was pulling me into the past when I wanted to move into the future.

I knew that my fellow writers found the workshop more useful than I did so I didn’t mention my feelings to them. Everyone grieves differently, and I’m sure that the workshop helped the others a lot.

And I couldn’t ever forget that I was in a fortunate position relative to my fellow writers. They came to the workshop in order to write, to give voice to their feelings. I write and give voice to my feelings every day.

Nevertheless, I did write a few rather sweet essays. I’m sharing a brief one below as a farewell to the group. It’s apropos since right now my brother, my sister-in-law, and I are going through my parents’ old albums and diaries. The writing cue was a poem called “What the Living Do.”

What the Living Do (Tinky’s version)

The living hurry. We get annoyed. The dead don’t seem to be in much of a hurry—and if they’re annoyed they certainly haven’t told ME about it.

The dead don’t make lists.

And I don’t think they worry about the weather, although we were careful to send my parents’ bodies off in warm, cozy clothes just in case.

Their only work now is to rest … and to inspire us with biographies and memories.

We, the living,

… feed the pets and cook supper,
… do housework (not a lot of it in my case, but more than the dead in any case),
… take casseroles to the sick and the newly bereaved,
… try to make a living,
… exercise when we can,
… talk on the phone and read the paper and watch TV and send emails.

We also feed the only hunger left in the dead: to have their lives, now seen in full narrative arc, remembered and examined.

We laugh or at least smile at the jokes we thought we had heard too many times when they still lived.

We turn the decaying pages of old albums and review—relive—moments of their lives: the first words they uttered, their fresh faces at graduations, the huge grins that greeted babies and grandchildren.

All the moments of their lives merge in memory … so that we, and they, can finally say that we love each other as whole people.

I Must Be in the Right Business

On Friday I delivered a lunch lecture to students at Greenfield (Massachusetts) High School.

The lunch lecture program is a sort of continuing-education feature for the students, although continuing education is clearly the wrong term since these kids haven’t concluded their original educations!

Basically, its aim is to expose them to different fields of study, different people, and different careers as an adjunct to their regular curriculum.

I was asked to talk about my work as a food journalist and blogger, to analyze why I love to write about food.

As you can imagine, this was pretty easy. I explained that I got into food writing the way I get into pretty much everything … by accident.

I went on to tell the students about the ways in which food writing makes my life more integrated, connects me to other people, and enables me to write about any topic I choose since just about everything can be related to food one way or another.

I provided a few examples of this wide-ranging focus, explaining that in the past I had linked recipes to such topics as vintage television programs, women’s history, literature, baseball, and astronomy.

I emphasized the ways in which my writing uses just about every subject I have ever studied. I knew this emphasis would go over well. I remember wondering when I was in school whether anything I was learning would ever prove useful in that far-away land called real life.

(Actually, I haven’t ever found much use for biology in my writing, but I don’t rule out being able to work it into an article or blog post one of these days!)

After this brief survey of my work, I asked the students to identify their favorite dishes for me … and to tell me if they could who had first made the dishes and why these particular foods were meaningful to them.

After the first couple of hands went up and were answered, the room exploded with young people eager to share their love of food and family. Among other dishes we discussed Pork-Fried Rice, Dad’s Enchiladas, Teriyaki Pork Chops, Ice Cream with Lavender Sauce, and several different versions of Macaroni and Cheese.

One student who had studied culinary science (I wish they had had that at MY high school) told me about his own creation for a final exam. He had prepared a breakfast pizza with eggs, cheese, sausage, and a multitude of additional ingredients. I’m sure he got an “A.”

We ended our session with enthusiasm—and hunger. The students themselves illustrated my point that food and cooking are meaningful both as pillars of everyday living and as keys to relationships and memory.

So I’m clearly in the right field. Now all I have to do is make A LOT more money cultivating that field…….

Speaking of school-age children, I’ll close here with an essay I wrote in my writing group last week that touches on my much younger self. We were asked to write briefly about a tree. This is what I came up with.

The Apple Tree

I’m not very old—probably about five, old enough to go to school each day but not old enough to have much homework.

Afternoons after school stretch their arms out to me, full of promise.

My first choice in the afternoon would almost always be to go inside and watch an old movie on TV, preferably one in which Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy harmonize as they sing of their love for one another:

“When I’m calling you oo-oo-oo oo-oo-oo………”

Most days, however, indoor, sedentary pleasures are forbidden by my mother. She wants an active, social child as well as a chanteuse.

Today her prohibition of indoor pastimes is fine with me. I have an outdoor mission.

My slightly older neighbor, Jamie Patrick Scios, has broken his leg climbing on the family television set—how and why no one knows. I am enamored of his crutches.

I have one ambition right now: to climb an apple tree in the backyard, hurl myself out of it, break my leg, and obtain my own set of crutches.

I put my Keds-clad feet in successive elbows of the gnarly old tree until I feel very high indeed—maybe as high as eight feet (which is a big deal for little me). I spread my arms apart like wings, launch my body into the air, and head for the ground.

But … I am small and limber, so after a lovely little whirl I arrive intact on the soft grass.

I try again to no avail. Grr.

I have a feeling my mother must have told the tree to take care of me.

Several weeks later Jamie lends me his crutches. They are a lot more work than I expected.

Thank you, Apple Tree, for not taking me too seriously.

Not the Original Apple Tree

A Letter from My Father

I couldn't find any photographs of my father in 1941, but the ones in this post come pretty close: my mother took them in 1942, when the two were first dating.

Some days I just love the internet. Thanks to that magical web—and to the research and kindness of a woman named Joan Weissman—I recently caught a glimpse of my father in his youth.

Joan is a textile artist who lives in New Mexico. Last week she emailed me out of the blue to ask whether my father had lived on West 108th Street in New York in the early 1940s. She had discovered a letter from an Abe Weisblat living there addressed to her mother and had found my contact information on the internet.

My brother did a little quick research and established that the Abe Weisblat in question was indeed our father. Joan supplied more information.

Her mother, Mata Rubin, was born in Poland but lived in Romania until she was 16. At that point Mata and her family moved to various locations before settling in New York, where she went to high school in the early 1940s.

Joanie (you can tell we’re already friends since I’m calling her Joanie!) told us that her mother hadn’t talked much about her past and had died of cancer in 1970, when her children were teenagers. Their father had kept souvenirs of Mata’s past in a box but had found looking at it painful. Now, after his death, Joan and her two siblings are going through the box and digging up details of their mother’s youth.

“Obviously, there was a lot of trauma,” Joanie wrote, “but from the letters I’m now discovering, she also had wonderful friends during the war years, and many meaningful relationships we knew nothing about.”

Apparently, my father was one of those friends. The letter from Abe to Mata was postmarked in 1941, when Mata was just 18 and Abe was 21. Joan mailed us a copy.

I had a feeling the letter was going to be pretty special when I read Joanie’s original note about it. She wrote that “the most surprising thing [was] that his heartfelt letter from 1941 seems to predict exactly the kind of person he would become, and the work he did. So, when I read his bio, I was sure it was the same Abe Weisblat.”

Here is a segment of the letter. In it my father is describing a trip he has taken to the Mid-Atlantic and New England states (with a brief stopover in Canada). I have corrected Abe’s spelling and punctuation just a little, something he frequently asked my mother or me to do. (He was a wonderful talker but not a polished writer.)

This country, especially in Vermont and New Hampshire, seems to be just as it might have been a hundred years ago. All you see for miles is mountains, green fields, more mountains, more green fields. Imagine going to a place where, when you want to wash in the morning, you have to go down to the lake with some soap—or in the better places, you have a bowl and a pitcher of cold water to wash yourself—a place where there are more cows than people (that’s true in the state of Vermont), where the kids go to the movies in their bare feet—and places where they don’t think at all about the war! They argue they have more important things to think of—their cows and their crops.

I could go on and on, but the point is that here are people that I have been looking for, people not interested in just going further economically, or becoming powerful. They’re poor, but they have enough to eat from their crops, and so they are satisfied with life. They don’t have to worry about hating people. Above all they are real people—people that could not be false. Maybe it’s because they live so near to the soil, and so haven’t been too much affected by our industrial life.

Ye Gads! I’d better stop this raving, before you think I have become completely mad. The point I wish to make is that in your letter you’re afraid that you won’t meet the real people, because they don’t exist. But believe me, Mata, they do. And when you meet them you will realize how wonderful they are, and how we who think we are the smart ones are but empty shells.

In some ways Mata’s letter was written by the man I knew in later years. It foreshadows my father’s career in agricultural economics, a field that wasn’t at all “natural” for a Jewish boy from New York City but that fascinated him all his life. It also demonstrates the enthusiasm and heart he always showed to his family, colleagues, and friends.

And yet … this document is also the letter of a stranger to me, an idealistic youth (with perhaps a slight bent toward socialism?) who displays a touching naivety.

The combination of old and Abe young Abe moved me. We seldom get to see the trajectory of our parents’ lives with clarity. I only knew Abe in his maturity; my parents waited a long time to have children!

It shocked me a little but pleased me greatly to get a glimpse of young Abe … looking out into the landscape of the country and his life with happy expectancy.

I am grateful to Mata for keeping the letter and to Joanie for getting in touch with me. Most of all, I’m grateful to my father for being such a rich role model. I plan to keep on cultivating the traits he exhibited in his letter to Mata—curiosity, optimism, warm heartedness, and enthusiasm.

My father certainly never smoked a pipe when I knew him--so either he smoked the things only briefly or this is a pose. (I lean toward the latter!)