My brother and I were discussing the scuffling economy the other day. We were recalling the other down periods during our lifetimes when, as a nation, we’ve struggled. Those years when there were long lines at the gas station, so many people out of work, empty store shelves and families struggling just to put food on the table.
I remember when I was a kid and my Dad, so many nights, eating macaroni and soy sauce or macaroni and ketchup. I thought he really really liked it. I cry about that now. I didn’t know.
We never wanted for anything, my brothers and me. We enjoyed a hot breakfast every morning and a hot meal together every night. We ate meat at every meal. Salad. Homemade baked bread. My dad ate macaroni and soy sauce while I complained about having to eat the roast beef with carrots and potatoes again.
I didn’t know.
Sure I saw coverage of the long lines at the gas stations on TV back then. I heard unemployment figures and inflation numbers. I didn’t appreciate them. Didn’t know to apply them. I didn’t understand when my dad would ask the neighborhood pharmacist to, “hold a check until next Tuesday”. I didn’t pay notice when he wore the same two pairs of winged tips for fifteen years, taking care to shine them at the bottom of the stairs.
They let us get the new shoes. They let us get the new school clothes and go to the sports camps and out with our friends. They let us get the baseball gloves and guitars and roller skates and hockey sticks. They struggled together in silence so that we wouldn’t have to. So that we wouldn’t know. So that we wouldn’t suffer or stress or struggle. We used to joke that all our mom seemed to eat was bread and all our dad seemed to eat was macaroni with soy sauce.
I weep for that tonight. I didn’t know.
Seems all kids, at some point, consider their parents to be embarrassing nerds. They are mortified that their parents wear what they consider to be outdated clothes with outdated hairstyles and tired shoes. Most kids don’t realize it’s because they get the new hair cut and highlights before prom. Mom has four inches of new growth and faded highlights from 13 months ago. They get the new shoes for the first day of school and the next sports season. Dad shines his old winged tips at the bottom of the stairs…
I used to think it was kind of lame that the biggest thing we do for our moms and dads on Mother’s and Father’s Day is to treat them to dinner. Now I realize that a good steak dinner or shrimp or whatever they wanted that day meant a lot more than I ever imagined.
I guess I just want to say thank you to all you parents out there who, like mine, struggled through the worst of the 70s and 80s in order to afford us such a wealthy childhood. A childhood rich with games and giggles. Carefree summers of pool hopping and baseball games. Exciting nights in tents in the backyard. Chasing the ice cream truck and Red Rover on the front lawn. Daydreams of infinite possibilities.
In today’s recession, for today’s moms in bad hair with dark roots and bedraggled bathrobes and three-year-old mascara and bras that have no elastic anymore, bless your huge, generous hearts.
And thank you to all you fathers out there eating macaroni and soy sauce today. Shining your shoes. Covering that thin, stretched-out tee shirt with a snarky old dress shirt and a limping tie. Thank you for letting your boys chase toads and eat dirt and dream of playing major league baseball and trade baseball cards and sharpen popsicle sticks on the cement. Thank you for allowing your girls to sing into a hair brush and wobble in her mom’s shoes and name her stuffed animals and knock tennis balls against the house, believing she’s going to one day win Wimbledon.
You’re heroes to me, you are. Every precious one of you.
Happy Father’s Day.