S. Lee Manning: Happy Father’s Day
This is the second year in a row that Father’s Day has fallen on my posting day. Last year, I paid tribute to my late wonderful father, Louis Katz, and my wonderful husband and father of my children, Jim Manning. It was a tearful and loving remembrance. If you are in a serious mood, here’s the link. If you’re not in a serious mood, keep scrolling down.
First, a little history:
Did you know that Father’s Day really got going because of the lobbying of manufacturers who wanted to sell men’s products like ties and pipes? It’s true. The first Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1908 – and codified into law as a holiday in 1914 by Woodrow Wilson. The first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington State in 1910, but it didn’t catch on, not the way Mother’s Day did. But the celebration started getting going in the 1920s and 30s – because of the great Depression and advertisers and manufacturers joining forces to create a new occasion to spend money. During World War II, Father’s Day became an unofficial holiday – to honor the men serving in the war – and was finally proclaimed as an official holiday in 1972 by Richard Nixon, in the midst of his campaign for re-election.
So, isn’t history fun? Yup, we owe the current Father’s Day to Tricky Dick and a bunch of advertisers. After all, this is America. We don’t really mind a little commercialism mixed in with our holidays.
Still despite its slightly shady origin, Father’s Day remains a great way to remember the fathers who sacrificed – working at jobs they hated to provide for their families, who threw balls and taught driving and who read stories at night and watched concerts where children screeched barely recognizable tunes on violins and attended plays and baseball games and basketball games and soccer games and then told their children how great they were, who sat through back to school nights, who helped with algebra or grammar, and who were just there for their kids. Here’s to my father and my children’s father.
But this is the end of my sentimentality. For serious, see the above link.
For the rest of this post, I will be providing a helpful guide to celebrating the day.
Yes, you have to. Give him a damn gift. Something besides a tie. Or golf balls. I shouldn’t be too harsh about the ties and golf balls – they were my go-to presents for my own Dad and yes my own husband in years past. Every now and then I came up with something different and interesting, but not too often. But it really was just easy to go for the tie or the golf balls. After all, we were busy – the kids were busy. Who had time to be original?
Yeah. Excuses. We all make them.
Still, the guy has to have something he’s interested in – besides going to work and playing golf. You should know him – at least a little. Try finding something that he’d actually like.
I have a new method for getting my husband Father’s Day Gifts: I ask him. Yeah, yeah, I just told you that you should know what he’d like. I do. He’d like a trip back to France. Or maybe Italy.
|Jim in front of the Moulin Rouge in Paris.|
Singapore. (So would I.) But that takes planning and coordination – and it’s really expensive. So I ain’t doing it for Father’s Day. My choices are then to go shopping and wing it – or ask. So I ask. It’s easier than having to go back and return a bunch of stuff that I thought he’d like and he really didn’t.
Another tip: if you’re over twelve, think hard about the homemade gift. If you’re a talented artist or baker, or you’ve developed your own special recipe for rose jam that you’re about to take commercial, maybe. But otherwise, think about it.
Father’s Day Dinner
Ever try to go out to eat on Mother Day? Don’t. Just don’t. It’s hell. They raise the prices. There’s lines and when you finally get a table, the restaurants try to rush you so they can get another happy family seated and served as quickly as possible. But at least, on Mother’s Day, most restaurants will hand a flower to the mother in the group – as they hustle her and her brood out the door.
Father’s Day doesn’t seem to have the same issues. Maybe it’s because we have this image of Dad grilling his own steaks and hamburgers on Father’s Day. If he likes doing it and enjoys overcooked and charred meat for his special day, why the hell not?
But maybe it’s not what he likes to do. We take mothers out for Mother’s Day because we have the stereotype of mothers doing all the cooking all year. For her special day, she shouldn’t have to be working.
But these days, fathers cook too. And maybe for Father’s Day, he’d prefer to have a meal at a restaurant where he can actually visit with his family instead of slaving over a hot grill or stove the way he often does anyway. Even if he isn’t going to be handed a flower by the servers.
Another hint, if you’re an adult, Dad doesn’t pay. Not this time.
If you’re out of town:
Of course call. Send a card as well. An e-card if nothing else. I mean, how easy do you need it to be? Go on line – there’s even free services – pick it out. Don’t have to go to a store to buy a card, or the post office and buy a stamp – although if you think about all the stuff your Dad did for you over the years, maybe spending the time to buy a card and a stamp pales in comparison.
A final serious note (even though I said I was done with serious )
Do something with and for the fathers in your life. Yeah, it’s a holiday that sprang out of commercialism and Tricky Dick’s desire for re-election. It still gives us the chance to do something we don’t always remember to do. Spent the time to talk to your father and let him know how much you appreciate him. Share a few laughs. Maybe some stories. We shouldn’t need a special occasion to tell the people we love much they mean to us – we shouldn’t – but we do. Take the opportunity while you have it. You won’t always.
Love this, Sandy! My husband and I learned long ago to ask each other. So much nicer to get what you want! (Don't get me wrong. I love a surprise, but I hate the guilt if it's something I don't want and it gets put aside.)
And, of course, you're absolutely correct about one thing. Most of our "holidays" have come about from merchants manipulating us to spend money when we shouldn't. Valentine's Day is one particularly outrageous holiday invented by merchants–as is the notion that one must buy a diamond engagement ring valued at 3 months salary. What a crock! (After reading the history of diamonds, DeBeers and WWII, I have a love/hate relationship with wearing them.)
Really enjoyed the history lesson, Sandy. And yes there is "commercialism" attached to all of our holidays and special days it seems. But that's OK with me — I love honoring my dad and my husband…it's a wonderful time to reflect on all of their great qualities and how they have influenced and inspired my life! Thanks for a nice post…Karna Bodman
Great post Sandy!
As far as commercialism and holidays goes, that’s why I always refused to observe Sweetest Day. I swear a greeting card company made it up.
I have the same feeling about diamonds – hate the history,but they are pretty.
Well, of course. And i insist on getting my due on Mother's Day, regardless of the commercialism. We can still enjoy honoring our loved ones despite the commercialism.
The photo of your dad pitching is my all-time favorite of the great family photos you've shared over the years, S. Lee. There's such energy and grace and intelligence in him, and the strength of an athlete. What a man he must've been. He'd be so very proud of you and all of your many accomplishments!
So capitalism hits again. But I agree with you, tell your loved ones how much you care now, because you may not always have that opportunity. And dine and laugh with them!
Funny article, Mom! And Happy Father's Day, Dad;-)
My husband's birthday is so close to Father's Day, that he celebrated the day jointly with his kids–usually by taking them to an amusement park. He always claimed Father's Day was a day Father's should do things to make their children happy. I kind of like the idea.