Saturday, August 22, 2009

Great Expectations

It's my father's fault, really. A dreamer, a bard, a storyteller, he set me up for adventure. While it is true (or at least it is told) that he didn't hold me for the first 3 months of my life and never changed a diaper, he was there orchestrating many important moments of my life. He bought me my first ten-speed bicycle. Today is his 75th birthday, so I thought I would share a bit about my life with him.

As a child, he read me Carl Sandburg stories at night. His voice was rich and deep and gave me the most wonderful dreams. He took me out on skis and sent me down the slope when I was just four years old. He bought some land in New Hampshire and took us there every vacation. On the long car rides he would tell us the great stories of Shakespeare or Charles Dickens, or he would sing; my favorite was, "K-k-k-Katie, beautiful Katie, you're the only g-g-girl that I adore." “Sing it again, Daddy!” I would cry.

First we pitched tents, and then he built a cabin- but with no running water or heat! My brother and I had to use the hand pump at the bottom of the hill and carry five-gallon jugs to the house. We did have a deluxe outhouse with a padded seat, and he would get up before dawn and make a fire in the Franklin stove. He got all the kindling he needed by challenging all the kids to wood splitting contests. I knew how to use a wedge and hatchet and could split a log into a dozen pieces by the time I was 12.

In the summer we would hike and swim in Spoon’s Pond. When had I learned how to swim in the shallow water, but was afraid to swim in the deep, he picked me up and threw me off the end of the dock, jumping in behind me. There was a, “No body tending!” rule, but we did wash with peppermint castile soap in the pond. In the winter we would xcountry ski. Always we would read and talk and play games together. One night, xcountry skiing across a meadow in the moonlight, we stopped in the silent snow and he recited Robert Frost, “These woods are lovely, dark and deep…” Inspired, I wrote my own poem about skiing across a meadow in moon shadow and won the 4th grade poetry contest at school.

He took me backpacking in the White Mountains when I was nine. I carried a backpack with all that I needed to survive in the wilderness alone. “You need to be self sufficient,” he counseled me. I remember sitting by the edge of Tuckerman’s Ravine, the clouds below, thinking it was the most perfect moment of my life.

Happy Birthday Daddy. You have taught me to expect those perfect moments of life. More importantly, you have taught me how to make them happen. I love you.

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