Sunday, June 17, 2007

Daddy's Girl

Standing on the warming blacktop under the late April sun, watching the trunk fill up haphazardly with first a sleeping bag then a tent, someone's hiking boots and then the cooler, my skin started to crawl. They weren't doing it right. There was plenty of space in the generous trunk of the powder blue and rust Pontiac 6000 but the growing weight of the dutch oven I was holding would crush the hoagie rolls and chips and the garbage bags in which it was wrapped seemed inadequately thin if it was to be squished in next to my pillow. This isn't how it should be done. One of the campers announced everything was not going to fit and I let out a disgusted sigh and explained they just hadn't done it right. I instructed my three friends to empty the trunk, step aside and let me do it. It was that epiphenal moment in 1995, late on a Friday afternoon, preparing for a camping trip when it hit me, I was not going to turn into my mother . . . I had already begun the transformation into my father.

As I deliberately arranged each sleeping bag, backpack, the dutch oven, tent and the other long forgotten odds and ends of a desert camp-out neatly in the trunk, I remembered countless family camping trips and vacations where no one, not even my mother, was allowed to put anything in the trunk/van/truck until my dad arrived to carefully arrange it all. This was the first of many such "I'm turning into Dad" moments in my life.

As a child I was a definite daddy's girl - I was his "punky girl" long before that Brewster kid came along. I vividly remember how happy I was to see him at the end of the day and how much I enjoyed being by his side whether I was pestering him with questions as I tried to understand football, tagging along to his orchestra rehearsals or accompanying him to the office on a Saturday. My earliest memory is of my dad and me walking through a field of tall bleached grass that seemed to be as tall as my 3- or maybe 4-year old head. My small hand was engulfed by my dad's and this dream-like image has stuck in my head as a comforting piece of nostalgia, a wistful desire for something I barely remember.

I often tease my dad and complain about what he has passed along to me but there are many traits, talents and interests my dad instilled in me for which I am grateful. The first being a love of music. I can associate my dad with everything from Bach, Beethoven, Prokofiev and Rimsky-Korsakov to The Doors, Chicago, Eric Clapton and The Moody Blues. Whether it is classical or classic rock, my dad enjoys cranking up the volume of his state-of-the-art-was-worth-a-lot-of-money-in-1973-stereo with the giant speakers and asking anyone still around to "just listen to that!" His love and enthusiasm for music has been passed along to me. He is a cellist and I distinctly remember being surprised as a child that there could possibly be any cellist better than him. When I was only 9 years old he graduated from BYU and I remember him rehearsing to perform at his graduation and being disappointed that I was not allowed to go. The Bach unaccompanied cello suites made popular by Yo Yo Ma's soundtrack to the movie Master and Commander, belong to my dad. So many Sundays I remember him sitting in the living room on his rickety old piano bench he toted around for its perfect height playing one of through a couple of the movements.

My dad taught me other things. I can chop wood, build a fantastic fire, cook a dutch oven meal, put up any tent and rig anything necessary for a good camp site with some string, a pocket knife and some duct tape. I have learned to collect useless trivia to lecture others on. I was taught the importance of introspection and meditation.

Like most dads, mine has his famous lines. Probably the most memorable is "Line Up!" One of which he is probably not particularly proud. You can imagine this was not an instruction to line up for ice cream (although he may have passed along that love to me as well). No, anytime my siblings and I did something wrong and the culprit was yet to be discovered, or when we were all guilty, my dad would line us up - oldest to youngest -and lecture. Oh, the lectures! For a child it can often be a struggle to stand for 30 seconds on demand but to be forced to stand during one of his lectures - I found it to be absolute torture. Especially the anticipation of the standing torture possibly ending in a spanking.

And one last memory before I let go of the last few minutes of this father's day. When I was in 9th grade I was so excited about all the possibilities of high school. I had greater freedom to choose classes and there were so many exciting extras to choose from. I was already on the basketball team and I worked for that most illustrious paper - the Union Bobcat (or whatever it was called), I was in band and on course for AP and honors classes. I also played on a softball team and a soccer team and had aspirations for trying out for volleyball. I wanted to do everything, immediately. But my dad sat me down and explained that while he believed I could truly excel at whatever I settled on and put my full effort into, I would not be able to do all of those things. I was so upset. How could my dad not believe in me? How could my own father not think I was good enough? Slowly his lesson sunk in and I realized he was right as I flitted from one interest to the next without my full heart. In the back of my mind I always knew my dad was right, I would not excel until I focused. Whenever I allow myself to become distracted by too many competing interests, I remind myself of my father's advice to focus and I make the choices to pare down.

I am amazingly blessed to have the dad I have - one who instilled in me values, taught me not to lie (a story for another day), taught me how to have fun and how to love. My dad is the maudlin one of the family prone to random outbursts of "I just love this family", often at embarrassing times. We tease him, but there has never been any doubt in my mind as to how my dad feels about me and how much he is willing to support me.

Happy Father's Day! I love you Dad!

7 comments:

pepper said...

Beautiful!
You are so lucky to have such a great dad.

Robert said...

I inherited the tendency to "lecture" from my father, who definitely gave much longer and more boring lectures than I do.

Seriously, being Alyssa's father has been one of the true highlights of my life. When I became a father right around Father's day in 1975 (I think Father's Day was the previous Sunday and Alyssa was born on the following Saturday evening), I lost my heart to a beautiful little brunette (yes she had lots of dark hair) and she still takes my breath away in so many ways.

Robert said...

I inherited the tendency to "lecture" from my father, who definitely gave much longer and more boring lectures than I do.

Seriously, being Alyssa's father has been one of the true highlights of my life. When I became a father right around Father's day in 1975 (I think Father's Day was the previous Sunday and Alyssa was born on the following Saturday evening), I lost my heart to a beautiful little brunette (yes she had lots of dark hair) and she still takes my breath away in so many ways.

Ma said...

You are definitely your father's daughter. I do think you have more of his traits than mine. . . except when it came to math.

What a wonderful tribute to your dad. He has always been so proud of you, as have I. Your shared memories bring a flood of memories to me about the little girl that always wanted to be like her dad. I used to try and pack the trunk of the car (being helpful), but gave up trying after having everything taken out and repacked by your dad when I couldn't fit everything in the trunk. I can almost hear the disgusted sigh that you must have given to your friends because I heard the same thing from your dad.

Even your talent for writing came from your dad, but I did realize that if you wanted to hand in well written reports in school, you better have your dad proof them. His corrections were painful for you at first, but it paid off, didn't it? The cookies and the famous red velvet cake you got from me.

tiff said...

I loved this, Alyssa. Beautiful tribute. Beautifully written. Neat dad. Thanks for sharing.

lizzie said...

love it and i love your dad...i always felt so welcome in your home!

autumn said...

Great post. I know what you mean. There are days when I look in a mirror and see my father staring back at me.

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