house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Father's Day

There was no Father’s Day when I was growing up. No paternity leave. No child-related chores for the self-respecting male. In fact, among the guaranteed rights and lifelong certainties of a Romanian man one could safely list the following:

1. He might need to push the car half way to the Moon when the battery fails, but he never need worry about pushing a pram to the crèche.

2. He might be asked to kill the neighbour’s pig, but he would never use those strong and skillful hands to mash a boiled carrot for his own toddler.

3. He might be called to die for the country, but he would NEVER EVER have to change a nappy.

Any wonder then that we children so fervently celebrated Mother’s Day, with flowers, plasticine landscapes and sentimental verse? She, the mother, being by far the safer bet for our survival, despite warm reassurance that ‘daddy was away earning for the family’.

May I add at this point: of all the activities above, my dad only possibly had to deal with the car battery emergency. Nonetheless he was, and remains, a Great Dad. To witness, the two dozen people who sat hushed and serious around his office table daily at 4pm when I invariably called him on ‘important matters’. Look at the scene: me at one end scratching at the plaster with a toe, chattering about the circus and red boots and homework versus going out to play, him at the other end discussing at length all the above, his respectful audience of grey-clad communist clones waiting, playing with pens and five-year-plans, eyes fixed on the wallpaper.

Fast forward some three decades, zoom to another point on the map and find a new pageant in a calendar already full of festivals: Father’s Day. Surprised to see how popular this is in Portugal, where men seem to fit the Romanian model way more than that of their Nordic counterparts. I am talking, of course, of the Norwegian or British breed of Modern Dad, all too often spotted carrying infants in slings, fitting artificial breasts to their pectorals to give the baby his 4am formula milk, feeding ducks in parks with toddlers, visiting the Butterfly Centre, going round and round in giant teacups at fairs, taking triplets to the swimming pool twice a week.

For them (and all the others) we need this day, 19th of March, Father’s Day. Big event in the Portuguese school curriculum: all normal activities stop to make way for craft sessions, certificate-printing and literary efforts in celebration of that Unsung Hero, o Pai, darling Daddy.

For days, Kira’s homework consisted of: Writing an acrostic for Father. Writing a poem for Father. Writing an essay about Father. Writing a letter to Father. Colouring a picture of Father and Happy Kids. And so on.

So we wrote an acrostic, here it is:

Momentos mágicos com o meu pai, / Magic moments with my dad

Alegre e cheio de carinho, / Always loving and full of joy,

Guarda os meus sonhos, / Guardian of my dreams, my dad

Nunca se esquece de mim, / Never forgets me, and so

Unica filha eu, e ele unico pai, / Us two, I - his one daughter, he - my one dad,

Sol e lua e estrelas brincam conosco. / Summon the sun and moon and stars to play.

We also produced a poem, of the type one might put on a tea-towel and sell in a bazaar. Let’s skip it.

On the day, a certificate was printed to declare Moona the Best Father of All Times. Kira also presented him with a key ring, personalised by a football-sized Letter M cut out of yellow felt. Nikita made a Lemon Meringue Pie, not outwardly personalised, but Meant for Moona and Eaten by All.

And I? What did I do? I helped with the poetry. Broke a few eggs (for the pie). Put on a pound of flesh after eating same pie. Put on the Party Hat. Etc.

But really, I don’t need a Dia do Pai to spell out, in tacky platitudes and little hearts, how lucky I was with my own father, and how happy my two young ones are with theirs.

Just now he’s growling with them in the kitchen, pasting Kira’s picture onto the wall then chasing Nikita around the table to have a go at the yo-yo. Earlier he almost throttled a nurse at the health centre while Kira was having her vaccine. ‘Because she didn’t need to grab Kira’s arm so tightly’. At some point in the evening, he will be heard raging about school routines and homework. Too much for the little darlings. Kids need less time in the classroom and more time outside to run about and explore and plant beans. I should teach them, he’ll say, I’d love to teach them. Later he’ll make the fire in the living room, then squeeze himself onto the sofa, somewhere between the dog, the kids, the cats and me. There, there he will be at his happiest, warm and finally content. Purr, watch a film, play a game. Kira will get angry and fiery at some point, and he will shout and cuddle in turns. All exhausted, it will be time for bed and he’ll be heard from behind the sofa (where Kira’s bed is at the moment) reading Winnie the Witch and roaring with laughter. Silence will follow, both fast asleep, and I’ll turn the lights off.

Tomorrow – and this is the hope and the drug and daily pleasure of my life – tomorrow we will do it all again. Inshallah.


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