Like many Villagers, my father is no longer with me. But in my memories? Well, that’s another story. Decades ago, I was lucky enough to have my memory banks filled to overflowing with vignettes of picnics in the country, baseball games played in a nearby meadow, and tip-toeing around my father as he snored a Sunday afternoon away on the couch.
My dad was a short, rotund man with an infectious laugh and a powerful love for his wife and children. We didn’t have a lot of money but picnics were cheap. With that in mind, mom packed a large wicker picnic basket with delicious but simple food and off we’d go.
My brother, sister, and I put on our frayed and faded swimsuits and fought for the largest towel. We’d crowd into daddy’s old gray Packard and travel to nearby Fairfield Pond, a small lake in northeastern Vermont.
Daddy sat at the picnic table and watched us splash in the cold spring-fed lake while mom set up our feast. First fried chicken, crisp and aromatic, was pulled from what seemed like a bottomless pit of tasty treasures. Then ice cold potato salad sweetened with a bit of bread-and-butter pickle juice. That was followed by the pickles themselves, canned the year before. Finally, homemade rolls paired with blackberry jam, also canned the previous fall. Summer never tasted so good.
Picking those wild blackberries was another yearly activity our family indulged in. On one such expedition, I inadvertently brushed up against a hornet’s nest. They swarmed around me, repeatedly sinking their stingers into my small body. My screams were immediate and panic-filled, but within seconds I was lifted off my feet and carried like a football under my father’s arm, while his other hand swatted the hornets away from my face. He ran to a nearby stream and covered us both in its soothing waters.
My father was my hero then and even though he died when I was 12 years old, in my mind’s eye, he’s still my hero today. He taught me to love without reservation, to trust without condition and to laugh without restraint.
Thank you, Daddy.
Happy Father’s Day, everyone!