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Remember Time with Dad

 Father’s Day brings memories. As his only daughter, Dad always let me know that I was his best and most-loved daughter. He told me and hugged me and kissed my cheeks and rubbed my back and spent time with me. The quiet times we shared are some of my happiest memories with him.

When I was growing up, there was a big wooden rocking chair with a red padded seat and back in our living room. It sat next to a window and across the room from the front picture window. A coveted seat. Dad often sat there to read the daily newspaper or study his Sunday school lesson or read a book.

Many times I sat in Dad’s lap while he sat in that red rocker and he often read aloud to me. I really liked when he read the Sunday comics and he’d share some newspaper articles.   And we’d take turns reading aloud whatever book I was reading at the time, usually a biography or fiction book from the school library. After we read, Dad asked questions. What was that chapter about? What do you like about this book? Now, what do you think will happen? Looking back, I realize he was teaching, which was his profession for many years, but as a child, I liked the comfort and security I felt sitting in Dad’s lap.

Another memory is sitting between Mom and Dad during Sunday church service.   We always sat in the same pew, about eight rows back on the right side. The sanctuary was small and most Sunday’s church attendance was about 100.

Mom put her hand on my thigh and if I wiggled too much her soft gentle caress became a firm squeeze. We didn’t have a church bulletin and I never had paper to draw or scribble on, but Dad knew how to keep me still and quiet. He handed me his blue ballpoint pen that was clipped in his shirt pocket and laid his hand, palm up, on my lap. I rarely wrote with a pen so I clicked the pen’s top several times.

Then I drew lines along every crease that crisscrossed Dad’s palm. And I drew pictures using those lines. Silly faces. Trees. Unusual shapes. Dad sat perfectly still and so did I, intent on my drawing, and sometimes he closed his eyes. Then Mom eased her arm across the pew behind me and nudged Dad’s shoulder. He jerked his head, opened his eyes, and he and Mom exchanged glances, and I kept drawing.

Dad taught me to ride a bike and drive a car. He encouraged me to climb trees and ride horses. He ate the practice biscuits I made for 4-H baking contests and he clapped loud when I bowed after playing my piano recital pieces. But I most remember the quiet times. Sitting in the red rocking chair. Drawing on his hand during church. Now, decades later, I still feel Dad’s love.

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Father’s Day

imagesIn 1914 President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution and declared the second Sunday in May Mother’s Day. In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday on the third Sunday in June.

Why was Father’s Day proclaimed a holiday 58 years later than Mother’s Day?

Two women campaigned for these two holidays. Anna M. Jarvis who lived in West Virginia, devoted six years of her life after her mother’s death, beginning in 1908, petitioning state governments, business leaders, churches, and community organizations for Mother’s Day. In 1909 a Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official day for fathers. Inspired by Jarvis’s work, she thought fathers deserved the same recognition as mothers. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and Washington celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910.

Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day in an effort to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” Tobacconists and haberdashers promoted Father’s Day. They advertised cigars and men’s clothing as gifts instead of roses, the flower that Dodd had proposed as the official symbol of Father’s Day. And the earliest greeting cards showed neckties as the perfect Father’s Day gifts.

So why did it take so long for fathers to officially have their own holiday?

Maybe because Sonora Dodd didn’t work as hard for Father’s Day as Anna Jarvis worked for Mother’s Day or maybe Dodd didn’t talk to the right people.

Maybe because, as one historian wrote, men “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.” (http://www.history.com)

Maybe because during the 1920s and 1930s, a movement arose to favor one holiday: Parent’s Day.

Maybe because the Depression derailed the effort to honor both parents and an attempt was made to de-commercialize holidays.

Maybe because, as a florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”

Nevertheless, a day to honor fathers unofficially continued. When World War II began, advertisers stated that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort and by the end of the war, although it wasn’t a proclaimed holiday, Father’s Day was celebrated. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued a public statement declaring the third Sunday in June the official day to observe Father’s Day. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making the day permanent.

It is estimated that on this Father’s Day 80 million cards will be given. Half of those will say, “Happy Father’s Day.” One fifth will say, “To my Husband.” Others will be given to grandfathers, fathers, uncles, sons. But very few cards will feature a necktie – the traditional least favorite Father’s Day gift.

Maybe the necktie is why Father’s Day was proclaimed 58 years later than Mother’s Day.

Maybe because the powers who were, the congressmen and presidents, didn’t want to create a holiday that their children would give them ugly ties. Ties they would have to wear.

Happy Father’s Day!