Sunday, June 20, 2010

Voyage - Day 16

Father's Day. It's the day we celebrate fathers. Arbor Day. Ironically, not the day we celebrate arbors. In fact, we don't actually have a day to celebrate arbors, which are leafy bowers made from lattice work or overhanging branches and vines. That is a disappointment. I would welcome the chance to celebrate such things. I suppose it would be awkward to have a "Tree Day," would the shrubs be jealous? What about weeds, would they demand a holiday too? Weed Day would start all sorts of chaos... Back to Father's Day, I cooked my buns off. It was a day of spectacular culinary achievement. On Saturday night, as I put the finishing touches on my macaroni salad, I thought of my own mom, who stood in the kitchen on many nights finishing the preparations for a holiday cook-out or picnic. I remember being a kid, and not understanding the look of abject horror that slid across her face at the mention of the word picnic. You see, for children, picnics are wonderful, what could possibly top the opportunity to consume food in the out-of-doors, free from the tyranny of table manners and napkins? We lived for the freedom to throw our plate away instead of taking it to the sink, to drop crumbs at will, to ignore vegetables in favor of chocolate cake and watermelon. What we did not know was the hours of preparation required to "throw a few things in a basket and head to the park." I don't know, perhaps we conjured up a mental image of a special conclave of gnomes that stole quietly into our houses the night before picnics and made mounds of macaroni salad (only slightly likely to give you a nasty case of mayonnaise induced food poisoning,) baked cakes and cookies, cleaned out smelly coolers and packed all of the claptrap required for such an outing. On most occasions, our family looked like the Clampetts, minus the old lady in the rocking chair tied to the roof. (I would have loved it if we could have swung the old lady thing, that would have pushed the classy-level over the top.)We had half the house stuffed into the car... Once we arrived, mom would get all the food set out, dad would grill the hot dogs or other assorted processed meat-like products, (they're all essentially the same, made from lips and butt holes, according to my mother, not sure if I buy that, how do you manufacture anything from a hole?) And we'd consume massive amounts of picnic fodder. Following the gluttony, my brother and I would escape to the woods for a great game of "find the one poison ivy plant among the thousands of harmless species," while my dad fished or hiked. My mother, on the other hand, then had to clean up and re-pack all of the comestibles. Picnics and cook-outs are fun for everyone, except mom. It's hard enough to cook the meal in your own home, who the heck wants to stick it all in baskets and tupperware and coolers and bug-proof screens and haul it to somewhere else, to set it all up, dirty it all, and then clean it back up, pack it back into the car and haul it all home at which time you can unload the car and unpack it all and then wash all the dishes and utensils. WHO CAME UP WITH THAT SYSTEM? WHO WOULD DO THIS ON PURPOSE? The answer is simple, moms. Moms are the gnomes that manage to make all of this seem worthwhile, who stay up late and get up early to make all the dishes they are known for, the special ones that are deceptively simple, and yet only she can make it taste just right. They delight in knowing that their children have tasted macaroni salad whilst sitting on a picnic table bench a woodchuck urinated on just moments before they all arrived. They love the sound of dirty, sticky-fingered kids, playing in the creek and eating a slice of watermelon. For these brave women, it is all worth it. That was a long rabbit trail. Let me just say this to sum up, I have a new appreciation for my mom, and all the hard work she did, without complaint, to make our childhood rich. We didn't always have the newest or the best, but we never lacked for the really important things, like picnics and cookies and baseball games and Popsicles and summer nights on the porch. I am the mom now, and I find myself in the kitchen making food on a Saturday night, not because my family wouldn't eat a sub from Subway, but because I know they love my cooking, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But, back to the subject of this particular post: Father's Day. It is a wonder to me, every time I look at my children, to see glimpses of my husband in them. I delight in knowing that Ethan's gifting for leadership (aka bossy-ness, if you ask his brothers) came from Shadric. I love watching Noah compete athletically, and see the intensity that mirrors Shadric, or his feet, which look just like my dad's. I adore Aidan, with his little-man logic, knowing that his ability to analyze systems with great acuity is just like his Papa's. They are, to a large degree, products of their parents, of Shadric and I, and our parents before us. They are uniquely themselves, entire persons, and yet, somehow, attached and drawn from us. It is a miracle, the beauty of life, and yet a curse, I daily pray that our positive qualities will be handed down to our boys, and that they will eschew our more negative traits. I am grateful for my husband, who parents with great wisdom, and a much cooler head than I. It is a blessing to have shared so much of life with him, and to have made three wonderful boys together. Father's Day is important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the simple fact that true fatherhood is a vanishing treasure, and when it is found, it deserves the highest respect and all the fanfare it can be afforded. It is also important because my children are developing a sense of themselves, and we are all defined not by ourselves but by the nature and the character of the relationships we form with others. My husband's fatherhood is defining the very "self" that our children will cling to in their adult years. This is a fundamentally essential connection. Our children will be the better for having had a father who loved them and taught them and disciplined them. Our culture would tell us that fathers are no more then temporary donors of biological material, but that is an unfortunate lie. Fathers are architects of character, building the foundation for a successful adulthood, their contribution cannot be minimized or glossed over. Children are in desperate need of fathers, and they cannot be replaced by educators or by more material posessions or by better social programs. We are witnessing the results of the decline of fatherhood, and it is a deeply horrifying picture. So, today, I want to say thank you to my husband, for loving me, for leading our family, and for undertaking the heavy task of building and discipling the next generation of men, and for being brave and courageous enough to stand for what is right and pure and good. I am amazed by you, you are a blessing to me and to our children. I am thankful for my own father, who has loved me with an unconditional love, who has supported and encouraged me throughout my life. I love you, Papa. While I celebrate the blessing of God in my life and in the life of my children, my heart cries out for those children who have not known the love and support and care of a father. Happy Father's Day to all those patiots of the nation of morality and character, who daily do battle with our declining culture in their fight to raise godly children and to supply future generations with a moral foothold. You are valuable, you are important, you are essential.

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