By Richard E. Peck
Celebrating Mother’s Day is a piece of cake. Take Mom out to dinner. She gets to eat rubber chicken and gutta percha peas in a restaurant jammed with 312 strangers also wearing carnation corsages and shoes that hurt. She gets your attention. And affection.
Mom’s grown kids phone her. Little ones give her a crayon-drawn card featuring blue sky and daisies. The man married to Mom gives her real flowers, no one knows why. She’s not his mother!
“Mother’s Day” is firmly engrained in the American psyche. And Mother’s right to this deserved tribute is biologically indisputable.
But it’s a wise Father who knows his own day. If the Hallmark brothers hadn’t invented Father’s Day, Dad could spend that June Sunday watching baseball on TV, the way nature and Abner Doubleday intended.
At long distance, Father’s Day is fun. You phone home and talk to Dad. (That’s why ET phoned home). But up close and personal, what do you do? Call him from the bedroom extension? Give him a corsage? Probably not.
Terming that June Sunday a “holiday” probably makes Dad shave. Maybe go to a restaurant (never crowded on Father’s Day). Eat a casserole … made from Mother’s Day leftovers.
And compare the “value” of the two holidays. An upscale resort on Maui last month hosted two sold-out Mother’s Day Brunches, in different packed rooms, at different prices: $37, or $45, a head. Father’s Day Brunch at that hotel will cost $24. At half-empty tables.
But if Father’s Day is only a minor holiday in the U.S., it’s generally unknown elsewhere. One June my Dad visited us in Rome, when we lived there. If there’d ever been a “Saint Papa,” Italians would celebrate his memory; but Italy never heard of Father’s Day. Immune to Hallmark hysteria, Italians have no Father’s Day cards, no gift suggestions for a visiting American father.
I decided to give Dad a cribbage board. “It’s a game with cards,” I explained at the game-and-toy store. “Called cribbage. Or maybe … Il cribbaggio?”
The clerk shook his head and said, “Card game?”
“With a board, to keep score. A 4-by-12-inch piece of wood, with four rows of holes in it.”
“Holes in the wood?”
“You drill holes so you can put wooden pegs in them,” I explained.
“Ahhh, I see,” he said, backing away. “You make holes in the wood, then fill the holes in the wood with wood.”
I gave up and bought Dad a gift I could point at rather than describe. A model Fiat. The directions for assembling it, we discovered, were printed in Italian.
In America — hidden somewhere in every community — there’s a store specializing in Father’s Day gifts.
No adult male has ever seen this place, but kids somehow find it. Two years ago, our son gave me a pewter mug with a golf ball on a small sod divot embedded in the Lucite bottom. Our daughter sent jalapeño-flavored jellybeans.
When she was 10, she bought me a necktie, containing at least five colors unknown to Sherwin Williams. It sported a dog’s head — with red reflectors for eyes — above a sequined legend reading “Dad’s Daze.” I wear it once a year, on Father’s Day, under a sweater.
My son’s gift that year was a block of wood and a drill — a cribbage kit, he said. He included a set of instructions, printed in Italian. (He’d better watch it. He’s got kids of his own, and his time is coming.)
Cards? Gifts? Forget them.
In a year full of Father’s Daze, hearing your kids laugh is gift enough.
- Richard E. Peck is a part-time Kaua‘i resident and a retired president of three universities. He has written numerous books, plays, columns and TV shows, and his work can be seen at www.richardepeck.com.