It might have been six months from the time the conversation started: “Hey, you know what would be fun? Taking Jaye to Donald’s.”
“Oh, yeah, them two would get along great.”
There were the permission slips that had to be signed, steps that had to be taken, security issues to define. Of course, all the secrecy made me just want to go more. All I knew is that he had a collection of sequins-sequins that I had to see.
Donald The Egg Man had a prize-winning world renown collection of hand-made, hand-decorated eggs. International Egg Art Guild stuff, although we didn’t yet know there was such a thing.
I myself was not yet into crafting, but I did have an obsession with tiny things. Miniature versions of things still amuse me, like those tiny guitars they sell at rock concerts. Anything to do with babies. Newborns at the zoo, and of course, anything in an incubator. A baby lemur at the Philadelphia Zoo had me all misty eyed a couple of weeks ago.
I was surprised how friendly he was towards me for someone I perceived as keeping me away for at least six months. He offered beverages all around, to me, Michael, two Spanish guys who spoke no English, and a blind Golden Retriever. The dog stayed by Donald’s side like some sort of backwards seeing-eye dog-human team, the sighted Egg Man leading his aging friend all around the house.
The first batch I spotted were the Ukrainian eggs. They were a good icebreaker for the nervous group, a crowd of awkward geeks who were out for a free art show and perhaps some discounted beer. Diane Swaim, my 8th grade Social Studies teacher, had introduced us to the wax-relief method of creating these particular eggs and as the only talker in the group, was glad to get things rolling.
The next thing that caught my eye was the Santa Blimp. This was a two-egg affair, a hot-air balloon in the form of a vertical egg attached by tiny ribbons to an oblong egg hanging below. The designs looked like they were perhaps painted with eyeliner brushes but after I asked, I found out that those would be too fat. Santa had a jovial appearance, to give you an idea of the scale and detail, his rosy cheeks were comprised of 4 sequins each.
Shelves lined the 3 rooms that comprised the “studio” portion of the small cape. There were a few hundred finished eggs, some that had just come back from juried egg shows. One wall displayed the ribbons Donald had won from egg competitions. I stood there, fascinated that there was such a thing.
Donald was a very private, very busy man and I only went to his house twice. In the late 70s, Donald, always a robust man (we used to wondered how he got his giant fingers around the delicate ribbons and sequins) began a rapid weight loss program later to be named AIDS. He was alive when I went to London, gone when I returned.
I saw the two Spanish guys a few more times, they were gradually learning English and were not shy about public displays of affection. I ran into Rooster on the boardwalk in Atlantic City shortly before I met my husband. He gave me a New Testament, and said “I’m sorry about your friend.” I assumed he was talking about Donald and tried to be gracious and compassionate. It was awkward because we so barely knew each other. A year later, I would find out exactly what friend he meant.