Relay: Macaroni Necklace

I’m suggesting that we put some effort into our appreciation

   It’s comforting to me how we scoot along each year marking the calendar by holidays. January is cold and dark, and after the enthusiasm of the New Year wears off, I feel a bit of a letdown. February gets more exciting with my birthday and Valentine’s Day — seeing hearts everywhere makes me smile.
    I’m a big fan of St. Patrick’s Day, even though my family has been in this country for five generations. As spring arrives, everything is a bit brighter and the dreariness of winter is forgotten as we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. 
    Mother’s Day is always quite an event. Flowers are sent, shiny jewelry purchased, breakfast is served in bed, and maybe Mom is sent to a spa for the day.  Poor Dad isn’t given the same attention. Father’s Day is often pretty boring. Maybe there’s a barbecue in the backyard, but Dad does the cooking. Most dads I know are given a small simple gift to mark the day. Why does St. Patrick’s Day get a parade and fun hats, but dads get a boring store-bought greeting card for their special day? Why are most Father’s Day cards either blue or brown?
    I know that Father’s Day was a month ago, but it bugs me that dads get so overlooked. I’m not suggesting we get our fathers two ties instead of one to show our love. I’m suggesting that we put some effort into our appreciation. 
    Remember when you were a child and you made your mom or dad a macaroni necklace in art class? The necklace took some effort and multiple steps were involved. Noodles have to be painted and laid out to dry. There’s serious consideration about which yarn color Dad might like best. The macaroni noodles have to be strung with care, and somehow there always seemed to be glue involved, though I can’t figure out why. Macaroni necklaces are a serious commitment, as far as gifts go.
    That effort and consideration somehow disappears as we get older and less creative. We run to the nearest department store to buy dad a shirt or tie or some other lame gift. And we buy a brown or blue greeting card with a sailboat or fish or mountains on the front.
    My mother died at age 29, and so Dad juggled a career in banking along with raising two young children in the ’70s. I might have been the more challenging of the two children, and it probably wasn’t­ easy for Dad to talk about “girl things” with me. But we survived. We did more than that — we flourished. Dad raised us without the benefit of after-care programs or support services for single and/or working families.
    How did he manage the house, laundry, meals, sports, scouts, homework, bath time, and broken bones, all by himself? I’ve asked him many times, especially since I’ve become a mother myself. He says he doesn’t remember. Sometimes I hear myself complaining about how busy I am and I try to shut my mouth and count my blessings. Life isn’t perfect, but you’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt.
    Dad and I are such different people. We have lively political discussions, really dissimilar ways of parenting, and flat-out opposite personalities. Neither one of us will admit it, but people say we’re also the same in many ways. My children will comment, “Grandpa says the same thing!” when they ask me about how they might handle a situation in their lives.
    My dad is a heck of a guy who is sweet, generous, and kind. He’d never describe himself that way, of course. He really doesn’t give himself enough credit. So here I am, telling all of you. My dad is the best! I admire him, even when we don’t agree. He raised my brother and me to have a strong work ethic and to set and meet goals. He was strict, but he loved us and told us so, even when we weren’t so easy to love.
    This year on Father’s Day my dad and I canoed the Peconic River with my two young boys. Next year? We’ll be making macaroni necklaces, of course. I think Dad will like a blue string best.