Sunday, February 19, 2012
Jay Steffy was hired by my father to "decorate" our family home (2101 La Mesa Drive, Santa Monica, CA.) in the early 1970's, when my sister and I were just toddlers. He did his job well, our house was featured in every home decor magazine they had back then, House Beautiful, Better Homes and Gardens, even the L.A. Times sent a photographer over to shoot something for their "Style" section. (To be honest, my memory of this is very vague, and possibly inaccurate.) In other words, he was no slouch at his job.
But, he was much more than just "the interior decorator"--to my sister and me, he was more like an uncle or a member of the family. (In fact, he was closer to us than either of our actual uncles, whom we barely knew and rarely saw.) He and I remained close well into my adulthood; he even decorated my sister's and my first "home", (720 Shoemaker Lane, Del Mar CA.) the condo we purchased to live in while attending UCSD for college in the early 90's. He died shortly after finishing our condo, and I wasn't made aware of his passing until shortly after his funeral, which I (obviously) didn't attend. I truly miss him and mourn his loss to this day.
My earliest (and fondest) memory of Jay is as follows: One day he walked into the kitchen and found my sister and I hysterically crying because we didn't have one of the "required costume items" (yellow ballet slippers) we needed for our first major ballet recital taking place that evening. Without them, we would not be allowed on stage, we wouldn't get to perform our routines, routines we'd practiced three times a week, every week for months. Since our parents weren't home and had left us in the woefully inadequate care of our Guatemalan housekeeper, Hortensia, (who couldn't even say "yellow" well enough to be understood by anyone that might happen to sell ballet slippers), things looked pretty grim.
That is, until Jay walked in, and saved the day. He listened to us tearfully explain our untenable predicament, thought for a second and said, 'Well, I'm sorry, but you girls will NOT be missing your recital! Yellow ballet slippers? Is that all you need? Well, that's easy! You have your pink ballet slippers right!? I mean, you've got a few pairs of those, right?" We nodded in unison. "Okay, well, grab your oldest, most faded ballet slippers and bring them back here. Meanwhile, tell me where your coloring supplies are, where your colored pens and markers are. Okay?" We did as we were told, and when we came back to the kitchen, Jay had a bunch of yellow magic markers (mine smelled like lemons!) and we each started feverishly coloring our pink ballet slippers yellow. The happiness we felt when we saw how well his plan was working was tempered only with the fear that the ink would smear on our white tights and that other people might notice our "fake" yellow slippers. But, he sprayed something from under the kitchen sink (still don't know what it was) to "seal" the yellow marker and off we went to perform in our first big ballet recital and no one noticed anything at all amiss. Jay even came to the recital with Hortensia (our housekeeper) and cheered louder than our parents ever would have, had they been there...