Posted in Life, Writing

A Father’s Gifts

I’m thankful that I have a father in my life, and I’m extremely thankful to have one as fun and unique and loving as my dad.

My dad has given me so many things: love, support, laughter, poetry books, one-of-a-kind Halloween-birthday parties, and road trips, to name a few. He gave me my nose (slightly crooked like his) and my ability to snore (thanks, Dad). He coached my softball team, attended all my band concerts, taught me to drive, and let me have the puppy I asked for without even checking with Mom first. (It’s ok, she loved the puppy too.)

My dad was the first person to read my whole novel. He stayed up most of the night to finish it. I woke up the next morning to find the manuscript sitting on the kitchen table with a sticky note that said, “Loved it.” You can bet that made me feel good.

While pets and sports and birthday parties are not unusual father/daughter activities, my dad has also given me a few gifts over the years that aren’t quite so common.

Made With Love

Some of the coolest things my dad has given me are his stories and his artwork, which are kind of the same thing. His stories paint vivid pictures and his artwork definitely tells tales, sometimes literally. I have four binders full of the mail he sent me in college, each letter inside an envelope covered with his ink and watercolor drawings, many depicting funny family moments. And I have a computer file full of his life stories, emailed to me in pieces over the past seven years.

To see some of his artwork envelopes and read one of his stories (about chickens), visit this Father’s Day post from four years ago.

IMG_0001 copy
A snippet from one of his painted envelopes, depicting a classic dad moment

Dad also likes to make things. I have a beautiful and very sturdy (read “extremely heavy”) bookcase that he built for me in college and a walking stick that he carved and varnished with his own two hands. I also have several homemade Halloween decorations including this awesome haunted birdhouse he gave me for my birthday in 2014.

Build a nest if you DARE, little birdies!
Build a nest if you DARE, little birdies!

Stories and drawings and homemade crafts still aren’t too far outside the norm, when it comes to presents, but a few of my father’s gifts have been truly weird.

People Say I Have My Father’s Eyes… They’re Half Right

About fifteen years ago, my dad gave me a coin purse made out of a frog. You heard me.

FrogPurse

Several months ago, my dad gave me an Aztec figurine, found in Mexico decades ago and given to him by a friend. It resides in this plastic container because, three times when I’ve picked it up, it has shot an electric pain into my thumb for reasons I can’t explain. I’m not kidding.

IMG_20160615_151620

And recently, my dad gave me his glass eye. Well, not HIS glass eye. It’s the glass eye that he’s had since I was a kid, the one he took out of the lost and found at his work after it had been there for years. I’m assuming he washed it at some point. (Note: His real eyes, like mine, are hazel. This one is brown.) Anyway, now it’s mine.

IMG_20160617_205611 (1)

Weird? Yes. Totally. TOO weird? No. Not at all. You see, my dad knows me. He probably knew that I would keep that frog purse in my classroom and find delight in shocking my students with it. He probably knew that the cool (and also creepy) Aztec figurine would end up in one of my horror stories. (Draft still in progress.) He probably knew that every time I looked at the glass eye, I would think about how he sometimes used to clasp his hands over his face and stagger around, complaining that he had something in his eye before finally saying, “I think I got it,” and opening his fingers to reveal… the glass eye resting in his palm. And he knew that would make me smile.

I love my father’s gifts. All of them. And I love him.

FathersDayBlogPhoto
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you! 🙂

 

Posted in Life, Writing

Letters From Santa

HolidayCards

These days kids can email Santa.

That makes sense, I guess. After all, handwritten letters have mostly gone the way of the passenger pigeon. But, while I certainly appreciate the convenience of modern forms of communication, I still really love “snail mail.” That’s one of the reasons why I cherish the holidays. It’s the only time of year when my mailbox is stuffed with more than bills and ads and the occasional postcard.

I know some say it’s a waste of paper and for many people sending a large stack of holiday cards is just too expensive. I also understand how silly it seems these days to send mail to someone who lives ten miles from you, someone who you’ll see at least three times on Facebook and maybe even in real life before the letter arrives. I don’t care. I love mail. I love hand-addressed envelopes and stamps and postmarks and the snick of the adhesive tearing free. And you know what? Some of those people who live ten miles from you and talk to you on Facebook all the time will say something completely new and unexpected in a card. There’s just something about slowing down and picking up a pen and putting a little distance between your words and the person who’ll read them that makes writing a letter different.

My love of mail comes from my dad, who worked for the post office for over thirty years. I remember visiting him at work when I was a kid, how I liked the smell of the building—ink and paper mostly—and how I enjoyed sitting at his desk and playing with all the colored pens in his drawer. My dad’s been retired for a long time now, but during his years at the post office he did almost every job there, from mail carrier to supervisor. For a few years, he even played the role of Santa. In the late sixties, when he was working as a Distribution/Window Clerk, he responded to thirty or forty Santa letters a year from the children in town.

My dad at the Richardson Post Office in 1968 and a letter to Santa from a little named Polly who wanted a tape recorder, a chemistry set, and a walkie talkie. No gender stereotypes on this Christmas list! :)
My dad at the Richardson Post Office in 1968 and a letter to Santa from a little girl named Polly who wanted a tape recorder, a chemistry set, and a walkie talkie. No gender stereotypes on this Christmas list! 

I love how in the letter above Polly tells Santa she’s going to keep his letters for her children because she knows he’ll “be even more famous then.” This girl is really thinking ahead. 🙂

No one at the post office had written Santa letters before. It was just something my dad decided to do. When I asked him what sorts of things he wrote to the kids, he said he’d tell them it was snowing and they were really busy at the workshop, that the sleigh was almost full and Mrs. Claus was baking Christmas cookies. He’d tell them to be good and mind their parents and try hard in school.

“If they had done something they were proud of,” my dad said, “like the little boy who didn’t wet the bed anymore, I told him he was doing great, and that I was real proud of him. I never promised them anything. To close out, I would usually say that old Donner or Blitzen or somebody was looking in through the window, and I had to get my boots and coat on, and go out to the barn and feed, or that it was about time to get the team hitched up.” He said he just did it because he liked it. His favorite letters were the repeats, the ones he got from the same kids multiple years, and the unselfish ones, where the sender asked for something for someone else.

That last comment gave me pause. I don’t think I ever considered asking for gifts for other people in my letters to Santa. It warms my heart to know there are kids that selfless in the world.

Santa letters are special. All personal letters are special. Opening up your mailbox and seeing a colored envelope addressed to you makes you feel good. Turning over a postcard to see who sent it and what they chose to write in that small space is exciting. When you think about it, it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. Before the year is over, send someone you love a piece of mail that will make them smile. Don’t worry about sending a card to everybody you know. And who cares if you didn’t take a family holiday photo this year? It doesn’t even matter if the recipient is your next door neighbor. Write a short letter and stamp it and put it in the mail. You may find that it feels just as good to send mail as to receive.

As for me, I think I’ll write Santa an email. I owe him a thank you note that’s long overdue.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Lollypop Ornament Note: Speaking of chemistry sets, if you’d like to read my dad’s story, in his own words, of the time he blew up his fifth grade classroom, click on the links below. Part 1 is about my own (less explosive) experiences with science fair, so feel free to skip that part and move on to the good stuff in Parts 2 and 3. It’s a long story but, in my opinion, it’s worth the read. 🙂

* Science Fair (or The Time My Dad Blew Up the Fifth Grade), Part 1
* Science Fair (or The Time My Dad Blew Up the Fifth Grade), Part 2
* Science Fair (or The Time My Dad Blew Up the Fifth Grade), Part 3