A Tie, Chopsticks, and a Memory Box

Mementos

November always reminds me of the first time I met Frankie Laine in person on November 20, 1985. This was a magical day for me.

In my last two writings, I had described our rather unfortunate Labor Day water misadventure and the subsequent removal of my beloved collection of Frankie Laine items to higher ground. Weeks after my wife and I had pieced back together our family room, including the room housing my Laine collection, I began the task of re-assembling my collection back into cabinets. During this process, I ran across two items that I determined should be housed within some type of photo frames to prevent damage which might occur as the items become more and more aged.

The first item is the necktie I wore when I first met Frankie. On that day, I had decided to dress up in a coat and tie. After all, I was meeting my idol! I’ve kept that tie as a memento of my first meeting with Frankie. It can be seen in all of the pictures taken of us that day 33 years ago. The tie is now carefully folded and placed into a drawer in one of my collection cabinets. I am now determined to place it into a frame.

The second item—a double item—is a bit more unusual. Frankie Laine’s used chopsticks—also from that first day we met. Allow me to explain: Frankie had picked me up at my hotel, which was just before lunch time. Lunch was his first order of business. He drove us to a Japanese restaurant. He wanted to know whether I had ever eaten Japanese food. I had not.

As our food was delivered to our table, we were each handed chopsticks. Of course, Frankie handled his with ease. Since I had never used them, I couldn’t manipulate mine even with Frankie’s guidance. We both soon gave up my lesson, and Frankie informed me that it was okay to use the silverware, also supplied at the table.

When we had finished eating, I informed Frankie that I would take my chopsticks home as a keepsake. He handed me his and said, “Here, take mine if you want a souvenir.”

All of these years later, I have Frankie’s chopsticks, used by him that day so long ago, in my collection. They are stained with teriyaki sauce (and, no doubt, they also have his DNA on them). A strange relic, perhaps, but I know they’re genuine because I saw him actually use them to eat. The wooden chopsticks have been housed for all these years in an envelope. I want to preserve them in a frame as well.

It’s strange, but because of our Labor Day water misfortune, I was obliged to revisit my Laine collection. In doing so, I have discovered that I must strive to make a few things safer for the ages.

Video Memories

When I first met Frankie in 1985, my daughter, Latisha, was about to turn five years old later that month. When Frankie’s 80th birthday bash in San Diego was scheduled for March 30, 1993—his actual birthday, I was thrilled that Latisha wanted to come with me. She was now 12, and I knew this would be a great father and daughter adventure.

I had borrowed a video camera from a friend of mine. My idea was to capture as much of the bash as I could. I wanted a precious keepsake with my daughter.

This was Latisha’s first airplane flight. We arrived in San Diego a couple of days before Frankie’s party. It was fun visiting the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld with my daughter.

The night of the birthday party, Latisha and I were seated at a table directly behind Frankie and Nan. Latisha and I took turns videotaping. She and I were on tape together and with Frankie. Unfortunately, the video we shot at Frankie’s party was too dark. The party room wasn’t lit brightly enough for the little camera to tape adequately. It was a pity the video camera wasn’t able to capture the event. It was just a black screen when played back.

Five years later, I attended Frankie’s 85th birthday celebration. My dear Scottish friend, Norman Foster, also came to the party. He delighted me by asking whether I’d like a copy of the video he’d taped during Frankie’s 80th birthday bash. “You and your daughter are on the tape quite a bit,” he informed me. “The tape also shows you visiting with Frankie and Nan.” I was stunned. Over the years, I had mourned the fact that my borrowed video camera had failed to capture the events during Frankie’s 80th birthday party. Now, from seemingly out of nowhere, all the footage I’d missed would be mine!

I eventually received the videotape from Norman, and it has resided in my collection all these years. The tape shows Latisha and me together at our table and Frankie and Nan with us in several shots. It is priceless to me.

Earlier this year, I had finally dubbed that video onto a DVD. Latisha had never seen it. She now has a growing family of her own and lives about 100 miles from me. We don’t get to see each other very often. One day this past summer, she visited our home, and, as a special treat, I showed her the video. She was as thrilled as I had been the first time I got to view it.

Memory Box Magic

When Latisha was a young teenager, she gave me a very thoughtful and unique gift—a Memory Box. She had seen this special craft idea on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Latisha took a box, about the size of a shoebox, and decorated the outside with various adjectives cut from magazines and newspapers. The words included “special,” “magnificent,” and so on—just words that reminded her of her me, her dad. The box opened from the top. The collage of adjectives completely covered the outside. Inside, Latisha placed a multitude of little colored slips of paper. Each slip of paper was folded in half and included a single handwritten memory that we had shared together and that she held special in her heart. Each handwritten note began with the words I remember . . . .

After presenting the box to me, Latisha instructed me to open the lid of the box each day, reach in and retrieve one of the folded notes and read a memory we had shared. I absolutely loved this gift.

Today, that Memory Box still brings tears to my eyes whenever I look at it and reach in to retrieve a memory.

I am one who believes in miracles, magic, UFOs, life after death, and so on. I am not a skeptic on things not explained. I have always agreed with the quotation “Never utter these words: ‘I do not know this, therefore it is false.’ One must study to know, know to understand, understand to judge.” Something wonderful happened the day Latisha came with her family to visit and watch the 1993 video from our time at Frankie Laine’s birthday party.

Just after viewing the video, Latisha and I walked into our storage room to look through some old photos. Right away, Latisha spotted that same old Memory Box she had given to me 20-plus years earlier. Instinctively, she opened the lid and pulled out a piece of folded paper. She unfolded it and read it. To our total astonishment, here is what she read:

I remember when we visited Frankie Laine in San Diego.

 

 

 

Categories

About the Author:

http://0.gravatar.com/avatar/ad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536?s=80

Craig Cronbaugh, Director of the Legislative Information Office with the Legislative Services Agency at the Iowa State Capitol. As famed singer Frankie Laine’s special friend and a collector of Laine’s recordings and career memorabilia, Craig has written articles; has written, produced, directed, and hosted a distinctive radio program; and has appeared on Iowa statewide television regarding his Frankie Laine avocation. Craig has been highlighted briefly and has been given a research screen credit in the 2003 internationally distributed documentary Frankie Laine: An American Dreamer. Craig’s book, a memoir, Reaching for a Star, featuring his friendship with Laine, was published in 2005.