Thursday, June 18, 2015

A List, Fragments, and a Father's Day (Essay) Card

Every December 31, I make a secret list: places I'd like to see my essays published in the coming year. Sometimes, it actually happens. That's the case with Hippocampus Magazine, an online home for (only) creative nonfiction, a journal I have always admired.

When the editor accepted "Going Through Your Things/Superhero" (an excerpt from my memoir-in-essays manuscript) in late January, she suggested publishing in June to coincide with Father's Day. 

This somewhat unusual essay began as fragments in my head eight years ago in my father's home office the week after he died. I spent several hours looking through the things he kept on his desk and shelves, his drawers, files, and closet. That day, I learned some things, about how I thought of him when I was a child, teenager, and young adult--and about myself (not all of it pretty or tidy).

It begins this way:

I am going through your things, Dad, and there is the black and white Kodak picture with the curly edges, me on Thunder, just a Sunday morning at the pony rides.

Oh Daddy, please take me for a pony ride; please, Daddy, wake up; it’s Sunday morning; let’s go; you promised to take me to the pony rides. Daddy, can I please have riding lessons; Aunt Louise said she’d take me when she takes Shelly; it’s only once a week, okay, Daddy? I got straight As again, Dad, so that’s $5 each, right? Dad, look at these cool new shoes I got at the store on the ship Mommy and Cathy and I took to France this summer. Hey Dad, can we go to a Broadway play for my birthday this year; thanks, Dad; and can I bring four of my friends, too; thanks. Dad, will you get tickets for me and AnnaMarie to the David Bowie concert, the Elton John concert, Beach Boys, Chicago, Frampton, Three Dog Night, the Steve Miller Band. Cool; thanks, Dad.
* * *
When I was a child, and even through most of my teenage years, even when I was convinced he was a hopelessly old-fashioned dolt, my father seemed to be able to get anything done. Tickets to any event. The son of a friend out of a parking ticket. A nephew out of jail. A new toy every store was sold out of. Broken stuff fixed, in the house, car, factory. In touch with someone important, maybe even famous. The back story. The back way to get somewhere. The right thing to say. How to convince someone to do, or make, or arrange something they didn’t want to do or make or arrange. Reservations, when every seat or room or table or flight was booked and had been booked for months. The right amount to tip. Which person to tip, and the way to fold the bill and when to offer it and how. 

I am going through your things, Dad, and here is the canceled check for...

You can read the rest over at Hippocampus, here.


Amy Morgan said...

A loving tribute to your Dad Lisa. Thank you for sharing it with such honesty.

Andrea said...

Beautiful piece, Lisa. It made me all teary at the end.