My beautiful Linda. I say ‘my’ because since I was a little girl, I always thought of her as my beautiful cousin, my role model, and later my big sister.
My first real memory of Linda was at Lake Boone, our great Aunt Fanny’s summer “camp” a term Massachusetts folks give their rambling lake homes. I was 5 or 6, she was a teenager. The boys on Lake Boone flocked to her. Not just because she was so beautiful, but because she was sweet and kind. That was the summer I learned how to dive. I’d been swimming for years, but now my dad said it was time to learn to dive. We lived in Bayside, NY and he would commute up to the lake for weekends from his job on Long Island. As he was leaving to return home, he told me that if I could dive into the lake by the time he returned, we would go into town and he’d buy me a present.
When he returned the following Friday, I had succeeded, with coaching from my mom, in plunging into the water head first – not artfully – but it was a dive. As promised, he took me to the local five and dime, and on one of the shelves was an assortment of ‘collection’ dolls (that’s what my mom called them). Though I never played with dolls, I loved displaying them in my bedroom – I chose one dressed in a crocheted purple gown. Purple because my mom’s name was Violet. When I got home, mom asked me if I had picked out a name for my new doll… Yes – Linda.
When she was in high school, every so often Linda would take the train to N.Y. from her family home in Connecticut and visit us in Bayside. My mom would take us on adventures into the “city” (Manhattan) to see a movie and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, or shopping at Best & Co., B. Altman’s and other Fifth Avenue stores, and having a girls’ lunch at Schrafft’s or Rumplemeyer’s. I was in awe of my teenage cousin and how effortlessly she moved around the department stores, as if she was born to be in one. How she would try on various outfits and model for us.
One visit, Linda went with my family to Brooklyn for a Sunday visit my grandparents. It was summer and I still have a vivid memory of what she wore. She had on black pedal pushers, a white cropped blouse, and sandals that had laces that crisscrossed her ankles and up her leg to just below the calf. She looked like a model in one of my “Seventeen” fashion magazines, a career she hoped to have.
During one of her visits, she had been accepted to New York’s Conover Modeling Agency, but shortly after her high school graduation a car accident scarred her lip. A talented artist, she focused on a new career in fashion and moved in with my family to attend Traphagen School of Fashion & Design in Manhattan. She settled in on our beautiful, pine-paneled third floor attic with two built in twin beds, a built-in desk by the front windows, a sitting area and lots of closets, now filled with Linda’s clothes. When she was at school, I would sneak up to her room and try on her prom dresses. Especially the one she wore as prom queen.
She always knew when I had done this, and she never cared. She’d show me her sketches from class… how she learned to draw fabric patterns and fur, as well as the beautiful dresses and women’s suits she designed for homework projects.
I truly had a big sister.
My mom being a mom, we both had chores, especially clean-up after dinner. We’d argue on whose turn it was to dry the dishes (we both preferred washing). We’d play rock’n’roll on the kitchen radio and lindy-ed together as we worked. But, when we asked my mom why she never bought a dishwasher, her standard answer was always, “Why? I already have two.”
When she left Traphagen, Linda went to work for department stores moving up to assistant buyer at B. Altman, then buyer. She loved what she did and made friends easily. My dad always spent time “interviewing” the boys who would come to pick her up for dates. Sometimes I would eavesdrop so I could learn what to expect when I started dating. Linda and her date always seemed to be talking and laughing with my dad before they left for their date, which I thought was a good sign for my future.
She had been living with us for a couple of years when my dad suddenly died. She was quietly there for us, especially for my mom, even though she, too, was grief stricken. Linda truly loved my father. It wasn’t that much later that it was time for her to move out and be on her own. She had a great job and needed to spread her wings. She and a girlfriend got an apartment together. I was devastated. Having her there in my life had been so important to me… I watched how she interacted with people… how caring and kind she was and I didn’t want to lose her. She made sure that I didn’t.
Returning to Danielson to attend a high school reunion, she reconnected with her classmate and friend, Johnny Makowsky. The rest is a love story that, even now, has no ending. I was thrilled and excited when Linda asked me to be her Maid-of-Honor...
and honored when I became godmother to her daughter Monique.
Years later she would be my Matron-of-Honor when I married Richard. Though she was no longer living in NYC, we spent holidays together and many summer vacations on Alexander’s Lake.
Her three beautiful girls became “my” beautiful girls as I watched her raise them into wonderful, caring women and mothers.
She was my cousin, my role model, my sister, my friend. “My” beautiful Linda. I will love you always. I will miss you always.