Every year about this time I send out my unofficial investor's letter -- "unofficial" because 1) it does not get sent to my investors and 2) it usually has nothing to do with investing.
I’ll get to the fund performance in a bit. First, a story.
We spent a long weekend in Newport back in May, and a heavy downpour that Saturday led us to the Dartmouth Mall in New Bedford, Massachusetts. More specifically, and improbably, it led us to David’s Bridal Shop.
Tarana’s school has a formal graduation ceremony, with hymns and speeches and limited seats for parents, grandparents and nannies (you need tickets to get in), and a commencement address, and each girl wears a long white dress. By tradition each dress is unique (there was a scandal involving a duplicate dress this year but I am not allowed to talk about it) and as March became April and April turned to May, finding the right dress rose higher and higher on the to-do lists for the members of the Chapin class of 2018.
Priya and Tarana were on top of this, but Nikhil and I were blissfully (and appropriately) unaware. The occasional white dress reference over dinner was easily lost in other transition talk as our family planned for both kids to move out of the apartment later in the summer, Nik into his own place and Tarana off to college.
For me, with the kids leaving, this was a year of vigilance for signs of overwrought sentimentality, which, whatever “overwrought sentimentality” means, sounds like a good thing to avoid. I kept an eye on myself for new obsessions and the emergence of odd hobbies. Indeed, I developed a passion for swapping out hard drives and upgrading RAM in old computers, but otherwise showed few signs of decompensating.
I dropped Priya and Tarana at the store and drive off to the far reaches of the many-acre parking lot, hoping that it would take so long to park that by the time Nik and I walked with our umbrellas back to the store, the dress would have been chosen, bagged, and paid for and the two guys in sandals, shorts, and hooded sweatshirts with Montauk printed on the front (Nik’s in green, mine in blue) would not have to see their daughter and kid sister prematurely wearing a wedding dress.
It was not to be.
David’s bridal is the Library of Congress of wedding dresses, rows and rows and rows. There were lots of fitting stations, each with a three-fold mirror and platform, and each with a little bleachers section so that the bride-to-be’s entourage could watch and weigh in. The women (all women, at each station, no best guy friends like in the movies) were split into two groups. One group, usually the mother and one best friend, gave their opinions right away, before the bride. The rest waited until the core group made up their minds, then cheerfully reinforced whatever was already decided. Dress after dress was unwrapped, modeled and rejected, until “the one” emerged, eliciting a roar from the bleachers, hugs and tears and the ringing of a loud bell (Nikhil and I laughed when we heard the bell the first time, drawing angry looks.)
But all of this activity faded when we reached the back corner and found Priya and Tarana and a saleswoman in cat glasses. I felt a sense of relief, because it looked like Tarana was playing dress-up, pulling costumes out of a fake cardboard storage chest in a friend’s attic. Nikhil and I looked at each and exhaled. The foundations of our existence remained intact, unthreatened by images of a future we were not yet prepared to see.
Then all of a sudden “the one” emerged, and we were no longer in someone’s parent’s attic. The women in next fitting station turned their heads towards Tarana and nodded and smiled and raised their eyebrows, the saleswoman put the right earpiece of her glasses to her lips, and Priya took a picture, then another one.
For Nikhil and me, the image we had feared was indeed remarkable, but it revealed the present, not the future. It was a graduation dress after all, found in an unusual place, but for worn for the right reasons at the right time. There were hugs but no tears.
And no one rang a bell. Nik and I made sure of that.
Regarding the fund: it was indeed a year of living (a little) dangerously. That said, the fund has done just fine.
My dear friends and colleagues – wishing you happy holidays and the best for 2019
(Below: Tarana is far right, second from the top; below that — Nikhil and I having survived David’s Bridal)
David Sable MD
writer, teacher, fund manager and retired reproductive endocrinologist