by Amanda Forbes Silva

For a long time I believed my Dad was Harry Nilsson. As I grew up, so did the frequency of Dad’s travels. But, I always kept Dad close courtesy of what remained when he was gone. Harry Nilsson. “Lullaby in Ragtime” was our go-to song for sleep-inducing dances, my legs defeated, toes covered by the caps of my footie pajamas.

Dad often donned a tweed newsboy cap similar to Nilsson’s on the cover of A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night. When I saw or heard that album, the lullaby song in particular, I saw and heard my dad, no matter where he was.

But, Nilsson was just the start of my education.

Corporate relocation number three brought us to Michigan, our temporary home — the Holiday Inn. Sharing the same too-starched sheets, my sister and I giggled as Dad crooned “Mack the Knife” along with the crescent-shaped moon on the McDonald’s commercial.

Once in our newly built house, Dad took me horseback riding, giving me another constant in my life. On the drive, I gazed at the seemingly endless rows of Braeburn apple trees as The Band belted out “The Weight.” 

“Is he saying ‘take the load off, Fatty?’” six-year-old me asked.

“Fanny,” Dad responded, smirking.

Relocation five. Dad stood backlit by the green glow of our English landscape, framed by French doors. “Listen to this, you’ll like this guy.” Elton John resonated in my nine-year-old ears, as my finger traced the album’s yellow brick road.

The tracks kept spinning — CCR, Queen, Rod Stewart, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan. None replaced Nilsson. A few days before my college graduation, a package unexpectedly landed at my doorstep. Inside I found a tweed newsboy cap, but no card. Dad let the music speak for him — listen and learn.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo of me and my father was taken right after my graduation from the University of South Carolina in 2004. I’m wearing the hat that my father sent me a few days prior — an exact replica of the one he often wore and that I always associated with with both him and Harry Nilsson. He, as you can tell, borrowed my mortarboard in exchange.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: To borrow a tired but true expression, timing is everything. For me, I often have something in mind that I want to write, and spend countless minutes and hours turning it over in my head, without actually committing a single word to paper. In struggling to determine why I want to write something or what I truly want to say, I write and say nothing.¶ But I know if I keep my eyes open, the avenue will present itself and suddenly that lingering thought, image, or idea becomes more accessible — the lock slides open and I’m granted entry. In this case, I’ve always wanted to write about my father. Perhaps because he is a larger-than-life character, the task has felt daunting. It was the challenge of containing him into a condensed word count in a meaningful way that helped me push the door open a little bit wider and capture a few fleeting moments, which culminated in a lasting lesson for me.


Amanda Forbes Silva
received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2012. Her work has been published in bioStories, later anthologized in bioStories’ Mothers and Other Creatures, Empty Sink, Emrys Journal, The Riding Light Review, and Vine Leaves Literary Journal, later anthologized in The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012. She is delighted to have been featured in Silver Birch Press’s “Learning to Drive” Series in April 2016.Interested readers are invited to visit her website: