This was originally written for my old blog (www.ombailamos.com). I am doing some housekeeping over there and decided I should share this here.
I must have been five or six when the photo below was taken. Being a lucky little five- or six-year-old, life was basically games and music and peaceful family time. The puppy slightly changed the latter, since - I am told - the cat in residence at the time hated the puppy with a grand and unceasing passion. However, I expect that to me, the puppy was just one more great thing about life.
My dad gives dads a good name. He's one of those guys who takes care of business, knows how to fix things, doesn't make a fuss, makes friends easily, pays attention, and knows how to compromise. He's also a good singer, and hella smart.
We moved fairly often when I was growing up, and one of the moves was a major life change. I felt a bit like an alien in the new environment, but I always felt safe and secure at home. We never really "fit in" after the big move - I suspect because none of us was highly motivated to try. Instead, we created a capsule world, a little solar system of our own orbiting on the outside arm of a strange galaxy. The friends we made as a family were, for the most part, also non-natives. Because my mom & dad did a proper job with us kids, we were always welcome in the homes of their friends. A lot of dads of that era would have insisted we stay at home with a babysitter. Instead, we learned how to socialize with adults at an early age.
As I was growing up, the behavior I saw modeled at home was constructive, creative, and kind. I'm sure my folks had a few fights over the years, but I don't remember ever seeing (or hearing) one. Instead of learning to tiptoe around the house like some of our friends, we learned that while our parents might occasionally need some quiet time, there was never a time we couldn't go to them if we needed to.
While we went through a period of being pretty broke, I don't remember ever feeling poor. There was always a little money for us to order books when the Scholastic catalog came around at school. My parents were always making or doing something. A lot of dads would have said that music and art were luxuries we couldn't afford. Instead, we learned how to make and do, too.
Throughout my teenage years, my parents were working like maniacs to transform a sizable plot of South Georgia pine woods into a modestly gracious estate. Instead of a pool, we had a pond - with fish, and with frogs who provided a Night of Great Music every spring. We learned how to cope with a degree of wilderness marching right up to our back door, how to work outside, how to use tools - because my dad didn't think we should be excused just because we were girls.
There was an understanding in our home that my sister and I would go to college. A lot of dads would have expected us to get married right out of high school. Instead, we were offered choices of which college we would go to. My dad bargained with me: he'd get me the car of my choice as a graduation present if I attended the hometown school. I went for it, and got my car - a Honda CRX - a year early. I loved that thing and drove it for fourteen years.
When I graduated from college, my dad set up a celebration lunch at the local country club, and he cheered me on when I went to graduate school. He got me my first part-time job, and helped me figure out how to do my first tax return. He taught me to be serious about life, without taking myself too seriously. He taught me that following your heart may not necessarily lead away from trouble, but will always lead toward fulfillment. He taught me, to thine own self be true.
You're the tops, Dad.