The first Father’s Day in the United States was celebrated on 19 June, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. It was suggested by a Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd (inspired by Anna Jarvis and her proposal of a Mother’s Day). Dodd wanted to honor her father, a Civil War veteran who raised six children. The holiday was celebrated at some point in June across America, and in 1924 Coolidge recommended it as a national holiday. It wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson made it an official holiday, and it was finally recognized in 1972, by Nixon.
Now, Father’s Day falls on the third Sunday in June, and like most well intentioned holidays has been devoured by the corporate world.
But my father is a man worth honoring, because he more or less singlehandedly raised a child he wasn’t even really that into, and he did a fine job of it indeed. While my father and I argued as all children and parents did (and do), I have the utmost respect, love, and adoration for him. By far my favourite blood relative.
This is a view out our old back door in Elk, where we lived before we went to Greece. I have many fond memories of our house in Elk, because my father stayed at home all day to caretake the property and the forest. Elk was the Polar Bear Blanket, the Wiggly Snake Song, and Zorba the Greek (the dog). Elk was rides on Edie’s rocking horse (and teething on her Tiffany’s diamond bracelet).
When I was very little, my father would strap me onto his back and carry me into the woods with him. When I got older and learned how to walk, I would walk out with him, but I went through a reluctant walking phase, where I didn’t want to go out. My father was torn. He knew that he couldn’t leave me at the house alone all day, but he had to go out in the woods and work, so he had to figure out a way of making the adventure fun for me. He coaxed and cajoled by promising to bring books along to read once we reached our destination, but the problem for me was the walking to the destination (you see, even then, I was lazy).
One morning, my father got up very early with a bag of Hershey’s kisses and walked out to a tree he knew we would pass on our perambulations. He tied kisses to all the low branches and then skulked back to the house to make breakfast.
After breakfast, he declared that it was time to go out for the day and I whined and complained, but he somehow managed to get me organized and out the door. And, lo and behold, halfway to our destination for the day, the Hershey’s kiss tree appeared, with the fruits miraculously growing on all the branches I could reach. I harvested as much as I could and after that was up early every morning, begging to go out for the day so I could see if the tree had borne more fruit yet.
After Elk and Greece, we lived for awhile in Fort Bragg in the house on Chestnut Street, of which I have only vague memories because we moved to Caspar shortly thereafter.
Caspar, of course, was splendid, largely because of its proximity to Jughandle Beach, which we made our own every summer. My father was still working at the bar then and he would be out at night but somehow able to function in the morning, and when we weren’t going to the river, we were walking down Caspar Road to Jughandle. We played with creatures in the tide pools and built fantastic dams of rocks and seaweed and sand. We splashed in the ocean and hiked round to the secret beach and sprawled on the sand and read.
Mr Bell used to come to the beach with us sometimes, something that would cause the tourists no end of consternation. He would sit placidly on a towel and wait for us to finish with whatever we were doing and come home. I remember once that he clawed an unleashed dog and the dog’s owner got all uppity with us until we pointed out the obvious (his dog was unleashed) and that furthermore Mr Bell was local and therefore entitled to do whatever the fuck he wanted to defend his turf.
When it was foggy, we would pack a lunch and hike to the waterfall at Russian Gulch, where it would usually be sunny. I remember that every lunch would always include a can of beets, so that we could pour the red water into the waterfall and watch it foam pink for a minute or so before diluting back to clarity.
Caspar was where I spent the majority of my life, up until I went to college, and I have lots of memories from that house. For some reason, I was thinking yesterday about how my father and I would make cake from the box all the time, and that any time day or night you could guarantee that there would be cake somewhere, or cake in the process of being made.
Of course, we had lots of other culinary adventures and experiments there as well. To my father’s credit, even when extremely poor or busy with work, we always cooked and ate delicious dinners there. This, of course, is probably responsible for my lifelong obsession and love affair with food.
This is a picture from the garden at my father’s house, which is usually a riot of colour and rescued plants. All told, my father is an excellent man and I rather like having him around. I know that some people have tormented relationships with their fathers, and I’m glad that mine is generally one of pure joy, although he does frustrate me something wicked sometimes. I suspect that this is simply because our personalities are so similar, and both of us can be extremely pigheaded when we feel like it.
Happy fathers day to all those who have fathers, or are fathers. Dads are awesome and highly under rated.