When I was a little girl, I somehow became aware of memories. I was interested in the idea of memories and how to make them. I read about how characters shared memories and how they made them. I watched movies wherein I saw people making memories. Hallie Parker in The Parent Trap comes to mind, when upon arriving in her/Annie’s London home, she meets her grandfather. She hugs him, then begins smelling his clothing. “What are you doing?” he kindly asks. “I’m making a memory! Years from now, when I’m all grown up, I’ll always remember my grandfather and how he always smelled of peppermint and pipe tobacco!” (Hallie knew that she may not get repeated chances to imprint these things in her life.) Anywhere I went, anything I read, I was captivated by making memories and their significance in one’s life. I seemed to understand their power in longevity and the repetitive joy they keep.
My dad was like many dads; working hard, providing for a young family. And for as long as I can remember, has always had significant responsibilities in our faith. This weighed heavily on him. I also have three siblings, so his time was always taken by something or someone.
The nature of parenthood is responsibility. Oh, most of it can be done with fun and some whimsy, sure. But much of what parents do lives in production: procuring food, providing shelter, offering love and guidance, teaching appropriate behavior and how to make good choices; parents doing the best they can with the resources they have. The challenge throughout for many parents seems to be producing all of that with the spirit of joy. The tasks and weight of responsibility can sometimes snuff the magic in parenthood and cloud the beauty in it.
I must have recognized the demands in his life and must have felt how I was missing him, because one Saturday, I had decided something for us both.
I marched up to my dad (I’m sure I rudely interrupted him from something), took his face in my pudgy little hands and declared, “Dad, we are going to wash the car together on Saturdays and then get ice cream. Just you and me.”
I know I surprised him, but like the soft and sensitive dad he is, he smiled and said, “Okay.” And we did.
We frequented the Baskin Robbins on Harrison Boulevard many times. I alternated between Mississippi Mud and Daiquiri Ice. He always got Rocky Road.
At the time, I just wanted to make memories with him. But now as a grown woman, looking back on those memories and what the effort to make them yielded, I’m astonished at what they’ve blossomed into.
As a child, I wanted to create something with my dad I would like, and something that would remind me of him when I was grown. And now that I’m grown, I see the memory as a gift from my dad: a gift of his precious time, a gift of his love for me. I see the sacrifice in the gift of his interest and money. I see the gift of himself. And boy, does that memory mean more to me now than I ever thought it could.
I once heard a mother whom I admire say, “It’s worth the effort.” She is right.