A Rough Sketch

In 1939 when my father was just five, he and his older brothers—the eldest only some seven years his senior—left their home in Corona, Queens, and trekked adventurously across the Grand Central Parkway to the World’s Fair. After sneaking under a fence and ripping his knickers in the process, my father proceeded to get his foot caught in a revolving door entrance to an exhibit.

After many hours and fruitless attempts to liberate his foot, the police dismantled the entire door to free him. Shaken but unharmed, they questioned my father about his name and where he lived. His brothers were hiding a short distance away, repeatedly imploring him, “Don’t tell him your name—don’t tell him your name!” Despite the ice cream bribe, somehow, my father didn’t crack and give up his identity.

Every time I have been to the panorama with my father, I have heard this story, notable for its consistency, if not its plausibility. How this little gang made it to the fair, how he wasn’t permanently injured, and how they managed to escape from the police have never been clarified; nevertheless, the repetition encouraged a suspension of disbelief over time. So much so that whenever I have been to see the panorama by myself, I have found myself mulling over the details and, even more suspicious, found myself telling this story repeatedly to my son.