There was a tiny breakfast place tucked behind a row of stores on Route 6A in Yarmouthport, Mass called Jack’s Outback. The menu was handwritten on pieces of paper that covered the wall, you had to set then clear your own table, and if you didn’t speak up loud enough when they called out your order, you very likely would be yelled at. Yet this place was always packed.
Every Sunday, my in-laws and I would take my oldest daughter there for breakfast. We’d eat out pancakes, catch up with old friends, and laugh as the occasional tourist stumbled in completely confused by Jack’s we–will-cook-your-food-but-everything-else-is-up-to-you attitude.
My oldest, a little over one then, was always fascinated my one on the regulars. She would stare at him, her eyes fixated on the huge rings that lined his fingers. He noticed. How could he not? She’d point and stare the entire time. He took it in stride, would smile and wave, never once offended by my daughter’s behavior.
One day he got up and came over to her. She skidded back, not because he towered over her, but because I’d already warned her twice to stop staring and eat her breakfast. He knelt down by her highchair and held out his hands so she could see the rings up close.
She had no idea who he was, that the man in front of her was Edward Gorey, the Godfather of horror illustrations. To her, he was just the same man she saw sitting two tables over each Sunday, no different than crowd of neighbors we saw day in and day out.
She has since come to appreciate his genius and tucked into her Christmas presents this year will be:
THE GASHLYCRUMB TINIES
and THE TREEHORN TRILOGY
If she is lucky and plays her cards right, maybe….maybe she’ll even get an etching!