Last weekend, while in the midst of trying to find some cupboard space for our new hand mixer, I found Dad in my childhood lunchbox.
Figuratively, of course.
As I pulled bowls and other baking paraphernalia out of the cupboard to make those ever-important decisions of “keep” or “donate”, I dusted off good ol’ Charlie Brown and Snoopy as they peered at me through their faded and scratched faces on the box. All at once I was brought back to my elementary school years of blue bell-bottomed Wrangler corduroys, pocket combs (does anyone carry those anymore?), and Catholic school uniforms. I could almost feel the anticipation of my 6 year-old self peering out the classroom window, waiting for Mom to pick me up in the yellow Ford Country Squire station wagon from half-day kindergarten. It was then, and only then, that I got a moment of Mom all to myself. Lunch with Mom was always special as we mused about my morning’s cut and paste project or I overheard her chat on the phone– all while making grocery lists or reminding herself out loud what needed to be done before the rest of the gang came home and invaded the quiet on Quail Road. Sometimes while eating with Mom, I could barely keep my eyes open. I knew that I would soon get to take “the” nap–the one I wish I could now take as an adult– the nap where I was eased to sleep by the noises of the work it took for Mom to maintain a household of seven. After my nap I’d often sit on the front porch, eagerly awaiting the mailman to come so I could tear down the driveway and “deliver” the mail to Mom–that’s when she’d finally sit down to take a break in her recliner and sift the mail into “Mom piles” and “Dad piles”. I can see it still today. All those memories live in the lunchbox.
As I contemplated whether Charlie and Snoopy should go into the “keep” or “donate” pile, I opened it up and found Dad. It was Dad who had written my name on a small piece of paper and taped it to the inside of the lunchbox in his signature “all caps slant”: KEITH GARVERT. Memories of Dad overcame me as I ran my finger over the 36 year-old piece of Scotch tape that kept my name attached to the lunchbox. Dad. I always gave him such a hard time about his handwriting. You see, as a child, I loved–and still do–handwriting. It was most likely one my favorite things to do in school and at home. I could get lost in the endless practice of trying to make each letter better and prettier than the last one. Dad, on the other hand, had perfected the art of writing in all caps– with the only exception being when he signed his name (and that is another critique in it’s own right!) I always smile in admiration as I think of what his life must have been like growing up in a different time, when going to school looked a whole lot different than it did for me. (Did his teacher ever get on to him for his manuscript? Did he always write in all caps?) It’s interesting which memories resurface after someone you love passes and the different values we place on those memories.
As I closed the lunchbox, jolted back to the present by my pending piles, I placed Charlie, Snoopy and DAD in the “keep” pile.
Today, March 1st, is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 88 years old. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!