Today is my father’s 74th birthday. Some say he is a little odd. Some say more than a little. I think he’s terrific. (and perhaps a little odd, too.) My father makes music with the rim of wine glasses at the dinner table. He puts his napkin on his head to amuse my kids. He honks his horn intermittently to keep the elephants off the road. (And it appears to be working, I might add.)
I had a very fun childhood. Thanks to my father. I’m not saying my mother isn’t fun (well, sorta saying that) but when we were young she was the one to make sure we didn’t mess things up and did the right thing and, well, you know the gig. Not the fun job. All parents understand these things. We can’t be fun all the time. But my father…he was fun most all the time.
I remember every day my dad came home from work, he’d open the door and announce “I’m home to you!” I loved that.
We’d go to McDonald’s (back in the carryout only days!) to bring dinner home for the whole family and he and I would eat a couple bags of fries before we got home! My dad took us to Baskin Robbins all the time. Really a lot. It seems like several times a week to me, but it was a long time ago. I liked Chocolate Cherry Cordial – but they discontinued it. Maybe around 1973. I still check the flavors everytime I go there to see if they’ve miraculously brought it back after all this time. I drive past that shopping center every once in a while. It’s not the same at all. There’s a discount store – really low end – and the sub shop that used to be there is gone. There’s a Subway and an insurance storefront.
My dad used to keep a tank of helium in his trunk and blow up balloons for the neighborhood kids. That is, until some woman called the police thinking he must be a criminal of some sort trying to entice children. I think that was around 1970. And it was so sad. No more balloons.
We always had magnets to take to school for science class, since that was my dad’s business. How fun is that?! He even used to come in and show the kids how to magnetize and stuff. (Now I do that!)
Every Sunday, we’d take a “ride in the woods” — somewhere, anywhere around 1-3 hours from here where we could end with a meal and come home. I have such memories of the “cow restaurant” in Media Pennsylvania (I think it was really called Longhorn, but there was this huge cow out front!) and of Goetz’s in Ellicott City, MD which closed about 30 years ago. I still think Goetz’s had the best pineapple hamsteak of all time. We went to Zinn’s, a Pennsylvania Dutch diner and ate lots of starch and homemade apple butter.
We’d play “left right left right”. That’s when the kids take turns at every intersection deciding which way to go. The driver had to listen. We’d try to get to Windy Valley for soft ice cream, but usually ended up lost. Then my dad would hand my brother, sister and me the map. We’d figure out where we were and tell him how to get home (or to wherever we were going). That was fun. And we played the map game at dinner. That’s the game where he’d say…”you’re heading north on interstate 15 and you come to interstate 70. Where are you?” Bryce Canyon, Utah, of course. (Understand where I got the research-geek gene now?)