Tag Archives: Memories

Put Your Tiny Hand in Mine

Father Knows BestNo fathers for a Father’s Day cookout today – mine is 300 miles away, my spouse’s dad died almost 10 years ago, and in my household, even the dogs are female. It’s a lazy Sunday as a result. Planted some parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (my yearly tribute to Simon & Garfunkel), watched War Horse on TV, ate random leftovers, read a little, didn’t even shower. In between which I thought about the following:

1) I wonder if my kids wish they had a dad? I’ve asked them about this at times. They always say no. But what are they going to say to me? Yes, you ruined our life. I have to explain the no-dad thing a lot, so I imagine they do too. Recently I brought them to get new glasses. My youngest daughter is incredibly near-sighted and the eye-glasses guy, thinking about nothing more than the thickness of her lenses as she gets older, asked about my eyesight and then asked, how about dad’s? I always try to answer casually, comfortably, like I talk about these things all the time and it’s no big deal. But it’s weird to tell strangers, I used a donor. It’s like telling people you had a boob job or you like to be on top or how much money you make. It feels personal. Most times I say, my partner’s a woman (and then sometime I have to explain further that she’s not a business partner), but in this case the question was in reference to biology, not family structure. Eye-glasses man was cool. He liked the kids. He had a lot of tattoos under that white jacket. He didn’t bat an eyelash.

2) My dad believed my mother did all the parenting. He wasn’t around a lot. He never even changed a diaper. Occasionally he was called in for serious discipline or for a ride to Carvels for soft ice cream. He worked all the overtime he could get, and even worked on holidays. My father was the provider. He paid for everything with cash. He scoured the grocery flyers for sales and did the shopping. He turned off the lights and turned down the heat and made you eat everything on your plate and paid every bill on time and watched how much water you put in the tea kettle so you didn’t waste electricity heating what you wouldn’t use.  My friends in high school were afraid of him. He was a growler, a yeller, a where-are-you-going-who-are-you-going-wither. Yet under his cranky, grumpy, worry-wart ways, my father had a sense of humor. We’ve all inherited it to some degree, and found comfort in it during trying times. And in this way, he parented us more than he knows.

3) Sometimes when my father worked downtown he would bring us caramel corn from a specialty shop on Clinton Avenue. It came in a red and white striped box and was sweet, salty,  buttery, crunchy and usually still warm. It would stick to my teeth and be gone in 10 minutes but it was the best treat ever because it made me feel special and happy and remembered. To this day caramel corn is the way to my heart.

I feel ok that my kids don’t have a dad because I try and give them a lot of caramel corn moments. And they have a step-mom and plenty of adults who love them.  And there are some good men in my life and that’s what I want for my kids. So Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there or all you dad wannabes or folks with dads or memories of dads. Here’s to all your  dad or no-dad stories. Be sure to tell one today – even if it’s to yourself.

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Smell The One You’re With

Pepe Le PewI’ve been home a few weeks now and I think I’m starting to smell different. I don’t mean my olfactory faculties have changed. I mean I think I actually have a different smell. It’s a strange mix of sauted onions and garlic, chlorine, dog hair, anti-bacterial dish soap, worn denim, paper, tahmari sauce, cold air, maple syrup, old slippers, toast, blood oranges and wood. It’s slightly sweet and kind of vegetabley, a bit like a compost pile before it composes. It’s not like I’m rotting away or anything. It’s not a smell that makes you wince or pinch your nose or leave the room. It’s more like I’ve been having a major make-out session with my house, leaving my hair snarly and my lips bruised and that faint smell of, well, home, lingering on me.

You are probably thinking, she really needs to get out more. And maybe that’s true. But I don’t necessarily miss the old smell. That smell was metallic and sour. Like coffee breath, hairspray, the after taste of sugar-free gum, manilla folders, nail polish remover, twice-used knee-high stockings. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t welcoming. It was a spray tan as opposed to a walk-on-the-beach tan. And you folks in that tanning booth, don’t kid yourself, we can all tell the difference.

I’m a smeller. I associate feelings and memories and moods with smell. Every job I worked at has a particular smell. People I love and hate have smells. The house I grew up in, the place I lost my virginity, the state of Maine, every Target in every town, favorite cars, my mother’s scarves, the ball field where I watched my father coach Little League, old ornate theaters hushed before the performance, my kids’ pajamas, my high school library, the Eliot Bridge in Cambridge. They all have a smell. When my other half goes away to a yearly conference for work  I take one of her t-shirts from the laundry basket and sleep next to it.

My father is a smeller. He knew where we had been and what we were up to with one whiff. Like my father, I too will smell my children around the house when they have grown and left, and it will dry up my throat, moisten my eyes, and make me feel small in the world. From 300 miles away I want to wrap my arms around my father and let him inhale.

So here’s my thought for the day. Get out there and smell. And when you are writing that quick-witted dialogue, scintillating scene and page turning plot, don’t forget the smells. Get us to smell you and we’ll follow you anywhere.

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