What My Father Gave Me

BLOG-pontchartrian beach exteriorWell, I did it again. Here I am posting a Father’s Day post two days after Father’s Day just as I posted my Mother’s Day post two days after Mother’s Day.

And that’s a good thing this time because (and I mean this in a loving way) my parents are competitive.

If I talk to one longer than the other on the phone, the one who gets less phone time feels slighted. If my sister’s call reaches them first on a birthday, I know about it.

It’s all done in good fun. A kind of game. With my dad, everything is a game.

Throughout my childhood, he played with my brother and me: pillow fights, Marco Polo, football.

He made long car rides fun because like a game show host, he’d ask us questions, and keep score, “How do you spell BOULEVARD?” “What were the names of the ships Columbus sailed to America on?”

He didn’t play board games like Monopoly or Life.

No, he played Hide and Go Seek and Cops and Robbers: anything that got our adrenalin going.

He took me to Pontchartrain Beach and we rode on the Zephyr.

He took me on a helicopter, a motorcycle and to a shooting range.

(I blame my father completely for my marriage to the kind of man who would take me hiking, without a guide, into backcountry Canada, where we were face- to- face with a  grizzly bear.)

How does that happen?

Okay, that’s a different blog post.

Back to my father.

When I was 4, my father took me to buy a pumpkin for Halloween. I chose a perfectly formed bright orange one. My father picked up a misshapen one and said, “What about this one? Nobody else is going to take this one home.”

And so we did.

I’d like to think that was a lesson learned, that showing sensitivity to a pumpkin shaped me somehow, the beginning of empathy.

Like many children, I was afraid at bedtime. Often, my father would snuggle with me in bed and tell me stories, the most dramatic, far-out stories imaginable.

That’s how he soothed me. Stories.

And that’s how I soothe myself today. Stories are an essential part of my life, listening to them and telling them and writing them.

They are my entertainment and my savior.

My dad is also the number one best back scratcher on the planet!

My mom—not so much.

She cups her hand on my back and keeps opening and closing it in the same spot until it feels like her fingers are going to draw blood.

Dad— That’s a way you’ve got mom beat—by a long shot!

BLOG- FATHER'S DAY

 

Are You Turning Into Your Mother?

BLOG- MOTHERI’m turning into my mother. That’s not a bad thing but it is curious. Mostly because I used to think we were nothing alike.

My mother is extremely organized.

I tend to be less so.

She would’ve never made the mistake I made, which is that this post is a Mother’s Day post and it should’ve been posted last Tuesday, a few days before Mother’s Day, not after; but I got confused, which I do sometimes, and that’s why the post is late, which is another way we differ because my mother is never late. And I mean never.

This is the kind of mishap that has driven my mother to call me flighty, which no one has ever called her.

My mother is disciplined and straightforward.

I am less disciplined and more artsy, which is to say emotional; or as she would say, all over the place.

So I’ve held the belief we were nothing alike.

But when we both showed up wearing the same thing on a number of occasions, I began to wonder.

In addition, I’ve begun to speak as she does, which is significant because she uses words like boondocks and expressions like…

A feather in my cap

and

The early bird catches the worm.

I start many a sentence, when I’m talking to my kids, with “As grandma would say," and then I say things like…

I’ll eat my hat

or

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

They tell me I can’t do that. They tell me if I continue to use those phrases, I can’t pretend I’m not really using them.

And I've come to realize my mother and I are alike in other ways as well. We both get nervous when we travel, don’t do well in traffic and are electronically challenged. We both love coffee and hate shopping.

But here’s the thing I’ve only recently realized about how we are much more alike than I ever before thought.

My mother was an avid tennis player, and a winner too. She played for hours in the brutal New Orleans heat throughout my childhood. And when we moved to New York in 1980, she and her mixed doubles partner were ranked (by the United States Tennis Association) number one in the east.

As a little girl, she hit tennis balls with me, teaching me the game. “It doesn’t have to be the best shot. But never give up. Just get the ball over the net one more time,” she’d say. “That’s how you win.”

What she taught me was perseverance. Yes, it takes talent and dedication to craft to be a writer but what it takes even more than those things is perseverance. I read that a number of years back, and it stuck with me; because I believe it to be true. I could’ve given up a long time ago; but I didn’t.

And that determination is paying off.

As my mother would say, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.