Summer Sunday: Father's Day

IMG_2404Father’s Day. What does it actually mean? Mother’s Day has clear, crisp expectations: flowers followed by brunch followed by more flowers. But dads lack that stock celebration.

As a child, I remember making homemade cards, baking enormous cake-sized cookies, and giving my father the ubiquitous tie every year. But Telluride men don’t need that many ties and after a while, gifts like that can feel, well, a little flat.

I’ve tried to help my daughters out, Googling cool Father’s Day gift ideas, yet I always end up feeling slightly repelled. In this age of the de-clutter mantra, it feels strange to try and acquire more junk.

But that’s not the only reason I’m turned off. Part of me doesn’t entirely understand the holiday. Is it a day about love? Or a day about gifts? There’s something in me that wants it to lean towards the former rather than the latter, to be a day that’s about more than things.

IMG_2405For this Father’s Day, my husband, Andy, didn’t have much of choice of how he spent it or what gifts he received. I had kicked him and our two daughters out of the house. I had one final graduate school paper to write and between the end of school craze and the arrival of summer, I hadn’t had a moment to even start it.

All things being said, he embraced the challenge graciously. He talked of taking them on a backpacking trip. Of Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. Of checking out the Salida River Festival.

But although he sounded optimistic, I knew he was overwhelmed. He had been even busier than I had. Between editing grade reports and writing his own, finishing up administrative duties at school and holding final meetings, he hadn’t had a second to plan.

I tried not to meddle, tried not to worry, even when I saw the car still parked at the Telluride Mountain School lot at 3 p.m., when they were supposed to leave at 11 that morning. The girls are fine, I said to myself. He’s fine. This is my weekend to write.

But it’s hard not to worry as a mom. It’s one of the things we do best.

I stopped by the school. He’d called to say they’d forgotten the first aid kit, so I had a good excuse.

“So, have you thought about where you might go?”

I tried to sound casual, but the truth was I was routing for something close by. I worried about them going all the way to Salida for only a night.

“I don’t know. Ophir Pass just opened up.”

“So you could drive that and camp out near Durango?”

“Exactly.”

“Sounds cool,” I said, again trying to keep the ball in his court, trying not to sound too anxious.

Yet, when they finally pulled out an hour later, driving our old Land Cruiser, I raised my fist in a silent cheer. If he was taking the truck, he was staying close. I could write up a storm and still have my babies back by sundown the following day. Space, but not too much space.

IMG_2406Hours later, darkness closed in on the western sky. The house felt impossibly quiet. I hesitated, then finally texted: “How was the pass?”

No response. It means they’re having a good adventure, I assured myself. But something tugged at me all night, like a branch that grabs ahold of you in the forest.

In the morning, I awoke to these three photos, snow piled high on either side of the car, wide smiles spread across their faces. I picked up the pencil and continued to write, happy that they’d found their own adventure and happy it was one they found together.

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