Sunday, August 17, 2008
The Dog Days of Summer
Yesterday was a glorious summer day in N.Y., blue skies, sunshine and low humidity...It doesn't ever get better than this, in August, ever. My wonderful Mom spent the day with me, lunch, laughs, lounging at the pool with a half a dozen magazines to peruse... This is my idea of happiness.
I can't remember where I am supposed to be on Tuesday, but I can recall the name of my craggy faced, dour, Nursery school teacher, Mrs. Reilly, who hated me on sight. My total recall for the entirety of my childhood is either uncanny, or a sign of pre senile dementia.
My Mother, still has to bear the full weight of my wrath, for missing my first day of Nursery School as well as my Kindergarten Maypole dance. It is to me, of little consequence, that on the first occasion she was giving birth to my brother and on the second, in the hospital for minor surgery. She missed it!!! All is not forgiven.
As we spent the day tripping down Memory Lane, I reminded her of another summer long ago...Throughout the summers of 1976 and 1977, there was a deranged serial killer on the loose in the N.Y.C. area, nicknamed the, "Son of Sam" or the .44 Caliber Killer. In a year's time, the Son of Sam, was responsible for killing 6 and wounding 7, mostly young couples, out on the "town". It was tragic and frightening. Nerves were raw and frayed. My boyfriend, the Captain of the football team, with hulking 18 inch biceps, could barely get me to leave my house. I would only drive in his car at night, if I was wearing a baseball cap, (S.O.S., liked long haired brunettes), lying down in the back seat, my face ringed with imprints from the floor mats. His biceps were no match for a 44 caliber bullet. Son of Sam was the Bogey man, and rumors of which area he was stalking next, had us all, (alright, me), crazed.
We grew up in a idyllic time. A posse of neighborhood kids, who played together from dawn to dusk, gleefully awaiting an afternoon visit from Mr. Softee. All was perfect and would remain so, as long as we never had contact, with the cherry bombing, squirrel killing, teenage son, of one of our neighbors...Creepy, silent, watchful, "stay away", our parents warned. So, we heeded and grew up without incident.
The moniker, the "Son of Sam", originated in notes written by the killer, found at crime scenes and in letters addressed to some of the N.Y. dailies. During this time, the police released a psychological profile of the killer: Single, white, male, in his 20's, a loner, a war veteran, someone who may have tortured animals in his youth and possibly living with a widowed mother. While reading this in the car, driving home from the City with my mother, I literally froze; check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check.. "Mom", they are describing "X" to a tee. "Don't be ridiculous. "But Mom, he's got to live next door to somebody. What if it's him"???, I whined. "Don't be ridiculous. "But Mom, the police are asking for help, there's even a hot line. MOM!!! Isn't the widowed mother's name *Margaret"? "Yes, Debra, so what"? I couldn't answer yet, but something kept gnawing at me. My synapses where spitting their own little bullets..."What was the father's name?" "I don't remember". And then it hit me...drum roll, the father's name was *Simon. "MOM!!!!, it's an acronym,
*Simon and *Margaret, Son of SAM!!!... "O.K.--- I'll call".
The next day, our neighbors house, was surrounded by patrol cars. The police were receiving thousands of tips, but *Simon and *Margaret, tipped the scales. "OH MY GOD!!!! "X" is the Son of Sam"!!! We were paralyzed with anticipation as we peered out the window...and then, they were gone.
No SWAT team, no stand off, no handcuffs, no killer. We didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed. One thing for sure, if we weren't paranoid before, we were now, fearful that the police might have tipped "X", about our tip.
The real Son of Sam was arrested on August 10th, 1977, undone by a parking ticket he received at the scene of his last crime. He confessed the next day. SAM, it turned out, was his neighbors dog. New Yorkers everywhere, breathed a collective sigh of relief. My Mom chided me about our folly, but I knew, she knew, we did our civic duty. After all, he was, somebodies neighbor---just not ours.
Thus, I finally got to enjoy my summer and I am doing now, what I did then...letting my hair down and enjoying the twilight of the summer. Hope you do the same.