My dad went into a coma when my mom was eight months pregnant with me. He’d broken his leg skiing, and a blood clot travelled up through his body and nearly stopped his heart. My mother sat in their New York City apartment with me in her belly, protected by friends and family from the knowledge of how dangerously close to death he was. I like to believe that during that brief time, when we both were in between worlds—me in-utero and he in a twilight consciousness—we made a pact. A deal that he would come back and be my dad because we had things to teach to and learn from each other.
As a toddler, he nicknamed me “Pea Person” and adored me as only a daddy can his first little girl. He showed his love through a fierce protectiveness. I went on to be an athlete, which he could relate to. I was strong and competitive in most sports, and this part of me bridged the increasing gap between a father and a girl needing to grow out of his protective shadow.
At the age of 14, I moved away from home to attend the boarding school that he’d gone to. Just as his father before him had, as well as some cousins and uncles from the Hudson family. I was the first girl to go there, continuing tradition yet blazing a trail. I thought at the time that I chose the school of my own accord because it had the finest women’s swimming program in New England. The boy I met in the library on my admissions tour, who would become my first love, probably factored in. The fact that the school was a family tradition was, to me at the time, coincidence.
Photo: Hudson Family archives
“I like to believe that during that brief time, when we both were in between worlds—me in-utero and he in a twilight consciousness—we made a pact.”
I grew to love my time at the Loomis Chaffee School as it felt grounded in something deeper than just a high school experience. I was connected to the paternal lineage that I was now redefining as a female and making my own. I felt the energy of the place in my DNA and it seemed sacred. From the sound of the train whistle heard from my dorm bed on cold winter nights to the loamy scent of earth from the surrounding meadows during spring rain storms, I sensed a connection to my ancestors.
Years later in Los Angeles, I woke up one early morning sobbing from a dream. The details were still clear in my mind as I called my dad at his office on Wall Street. I made him promise that he wouldn’t leave yet, that he wasn’t going anywhere. He seemed affectionately amused by my emotion and assured me that all was fine and that I should try to go back to sleep, as it was only 4:30 in the morning in L.A.
Nine days later he felt a pain in his chest and told my mother to drive him to the hospital. He got there in time for medical intervention to save him from the heart attack he was having.
That summer, we sat side by side in rocking chairs gazing at the Long Island Sound. I mentioned the phone call and how strange it was that I had had that dream. He said he saw no correlation between the dream and his heart attack. Stung, I let it pass, understanding that sometimes, things so close are too hard to see.
In his retirement, my dad has become an accomplished clay sculptor. He often makes figures of Apache warriors and the weathered faces of Sioux chiefs. Native Americans believe the dream world to be more significant than the waking world, that when we close our eyes to sleep, we leave the constrictions of our bodies and roam free from the limitations of the earthly plane. It is in this space that I know my dad and I understand and love each other in ways far more meaningful than this world will allow.
“I grew to love my time at the Loomis Chaffee School as it felt grounded in something deeper than just a high school experience. I was connected to the paternal lineage that I was now redefining as a female and making my own.”