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Father’s Day is just over a week away and the airwaves are abuzz with suggestions and ideas for what to get dad this year. The sellers of stuff for men are in full display at the beginning of the summer season, because what the heck do we get a guy who often appears to already have everything he may want? Mom’s are easy to shop for in comparison as there’s so many things mom’s like and little doubt they will run out of room for another piece of clothing, a place to put another pretty nick knack or not find a use for a gift card to their favorite spa.
Dads on the other hand are a question wrapped in a conundrum. Sure, many dad’s have pass times and hobbies which they can spend and inordinate amount of time on, but they are often pretty self reliant and particular about which items they choose to populate their interests with. It’s hard to find something for the guy who has a garage full of stuff that seems to increase in volume every year.
Have you ever been fortunate enough to watch as mom asks about something she hasn’t noticed before, which appears to be new to the growing garage pile? A Dad’s retort often goes something like this; “What? Oh, that thing? No, it’s not new I’ve had it for years! You’ll see Mom’s eyes knowingly narrow a bit as she silently turns and walks back into the house. You’re sure you catch just the slightest bit of grin, or is it a smirk, on dad’s face as he once again busies himself with whatever he was doing before the gentle interrogation took place. Dad’s are a resourceful lot when it comes to hunting and gathering. They are hard wired for such tasks, which means they can be harder to impress when it falls upon you to do a little surprise hunting and gathering for him on a birthday or Fathers Day.
The key word here is surprise. No one likes a surprise more than dad as long as it fits with his wants or needs, which he can often carry close to his chest like a gambler at the card tables in Vegas. And this is how those flashy media ads and store displays at the local indoor and outdoor manly mart win out year after year. It’s just a heck of a lot easier to get sucked in to the vortex of the usual purchase and hope that dad won’t be offended or find a back corner of the garage to place the bauble you’ve gone to great lengths to get him which eventually finds its way into the traditional late summer neighborhood yard sale and barbecue.
As a kid who didn’t make art projects that they were coerced into creating by teachers who took their job of nurturing a young talent in their formative years quite literally and not just figuratively. Refrigerator doors were often adorned in bright finger paint and crayon masterpieces proudly displayed to all who wandered past in dinner preparation or while foraging for a late night indulgence. Sadly my own home fridge was devoid of such decorations. Dad was a strict disciplinarian and such things weren’t considered becoming of a neat and tidy home. If quarters couldn’t bounce off a tightly made bed in the morning before school then the day promised to be a stern one. Such was early life in the Davis household. I lived with it, didn’t really have a say in the matter, meaning these things have hung on for years as they often have a tendency to do.
Our early years shape our perceptions of the world both for good and for bad, and we continue to live with it, although as adults we do have more of a say in the matter, which is most likely why I have chosen writing and other forms of creative expression to work through those things that will continue to be a part of me as much as they were part of my parents. These are the gifts and otherwise that we pass on to the next generation. These are the things that intrigue us in our fascination and fear later in life as we ponder where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
When my mother passed away a few years ago I became the executor of her meager estate of personal belongings. Anyone whose been in this position knows that it can be a daunting and bittersweet task. Going through the possessions of a loved one after they’ve departed from our presence can be a powerful wakeup call as we discover who they really were in comparison to our perception of who we thought them to be. Fortunately Mom turned out to be just who she was and no surprises were uncovered much to my relief. Among her belongings were bits and pieces of me and my sister’s past in the form of photographs, stacks of greeting and birthday cards filed away in shoe boxes and little things we’d made and gifted to our parents. Dad’s presence was just as evident. I have a box of letters he sent to my mom, which I discovered in a locked cedar chest. They were written before they were married. I’m slowly working my way through them, cherishing in my imagination the emotion and attraction behind the words of my father. This is a part of him I never really knew, felt, or experienced to my satisfaction as a child or an adult. As mentioned previously, I simply lived with it.
While deciding what to keep, what to donate and what to toss out I came across a sculpture of wood, copper and wire that I’d made and given to my parents somewhere around the third or fourth grade I imagine. What a surprise to find that it had survived so many years and household moves. I brought it home out of pure sentiment and stuck it in the garage, occasionally giving it a glance and not thinking much of it. Until today.
As I sat down to share my thoughts in this Blog, about Father’s Day and making stuff, I remembered this piece of art I’d created so many years ago. I retrieved it from where it lay hidden, in the corner of the garage and now it sits like some long lost memory made physical next to me and the computer I’m using to write these words. It delights me to realize that my interest in art and personal creativity goes back so early in my life. Believe it or not I can recall that this piece of art came into being based upon nothing more than the shape of a piece of driftwood. I saw in my imagination it’s potential and then created the sculpture through learning the things required to make it become reality.
I can’t say for certain if this primitive piece of my early creativity was specifically meant for my dad on Father’s day or not. Let’s just say that it was as that makes for a much more interesting Blog. After all, when it comes to gifts we’re often reminded that it’s the thought more so than the substance that counts. We’ll chalk it up to artistic license and move forward with my thoughts here.
I don’t know what went through my dad’s head when he first laid eyes on this little metal and wooden replica of a sailing sloop. I do remember I felt a sense of satisfaction and happiness at being the maker in my mind of such a magnificent sculpture. I was proud and pleased with myself as grade school kids often are, and should be. After all self motivation and encouragement is just as important as outside encouragement and praise in the creative process. I was pleased with the gift whether my dad was or not. It’s nice to think he was. More than likely this true as he began to notice the beginnings of me becoming my own hunter-gatherer.
Which brings me to my point. Making things for our parents as a child often provides happiness and a sense of pride and self fulfillment. The act of creating something from our own thoughts and hands is a powerful teacher and confidence builder. But why does this have to be true only for children and accomplished artisans? Why should we continue to relinquish our gift giving to corporate creatives who hype happiness in the form of mass produced material goods that are made by the hands of others and machines? Yes, it’s both convenient and saves time, but to what end? What sort of pride and fulfillment do we receive at handing over our time in the form of cash for something created en mass to fill the perceived want of someone else? This is commerce and it’s an important part of our economic well being, physical requirements and comfort, but is that what is needed or appreciated at every holiday and occasion? What would happen if we took another route and actually spent the one thing that has more value than anything else in our life on those we love and care for?
Nothing is more valuable than our time. When we give this commodity to others, no matter the form it takes, we’re giving the one thing none of us will ever get back or even know how much we truly have to give in our overall account. When we’re young we may believe our time is absolutely endless. As we get older and theoretically wiser we understand that this isn’t the case at all. In fact it’s a guessing game every one of us will lose in the end. Our time is the greatest gift we can give others, whether it’s spent directly in their presence or creating something from our own personal resources to give to them as a present and icon of our time and appreciation for their presence in our life.
I can hear the groans in the hearts and minds of some of you reading or listening to this. You may be thinking “I’m not an artist, I can’t create anything and I wouldn’t dare to try as I don’t even know where to begin!” Question for you if you’re one of those who are struggling with the thought of making something for a loved one, or in this case, for dad for Father’s Day; Did you feel this way as a kid when you brought home a drawing or piece of art that you made in school? I’m guessing you didn’t because you were proud to give something to someone you love and who loves you. You created out of love, not out of a sense of inability to express that love through your perception of what proper technique and perfection is. Perhaps it’s time to rid yourself of something you’ll never attain and get on better speaking terms with the idea that perfection is a fiction we learn from others who wish to control our perceptions of reality.
I’ll go out on a theoretical limb here and suggest that our imperfections in life is what make us who we are as unique individuals. Being accepted as such by those who really love us means they accept us, as we are, and unconditionally. Our quirky personality is who they care about. The things we create from our heart and hands which showcase our personality have more meaning than we can ever know because these created things represent a honest and truthful piece of us, not a nebulous idea of what someone may believe they need.
There are very few actual needs we have in life and a whole lot of wants that often muddy up the puddle in the pathway of what our actual needs truly are. One of the most important needs we have is that of being provided a means and way to express ourself honestly and without fear of judgment or failure. The converse need to this is to honestly accept others for who they are regardless of how imperfect we may believe them to be. Personal creativity is one of the ways we work through this equation of our feelings towards others, ourselves and their feelings towards us. Look at the art a child makes and this becomes abundantly clear. To create with the hands of a child is to create with the heart and understanding of a child. In other words don’t fret about the looks just express your feelings with the heart and emotionally connected hands of a child. Then share what you create out of a sense of love and caring not perfection. When you do so those who love you will be more inclined to feel it. And isn’t that what counts?
So, what’s the greatest gift you can give your dad on Father’s Day? In my contemplation of this subject, looking at this piece of wood, wire and copper metal I made so many years ago I had somewhat of an epiphany. My dad died several years ago and so my opportunity for Father’s Day gift giving might seem over. I guess it depends upon how you choose to view things really. You see this sculpture I made as a child is a gift that unbeknownst to me has been giving ever since I created it so many years ago. It is a symbol of what I have eventually become as I’ve sailed through life and towards my legacy of creativity and art. The Sloop has become sign and symbol for a life lived in the art and craft of creativity. My suggestion to you is that the greatest gift you can give your dad this Father’s Day is a promise to make something for him like I hope he made for you. Make yourself the best legacy of love and life that you possibly can as you navigate the waters of your own unique path. It’s the gift that truly will keep on giving. So, go make something of yourself. Happy Father’s Day Dad....Until next time.
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