I wanted to go to the flea market on Father’s Day. I like flea markets. The thought of discovering buried treasure among a bucket of dirty He-Men figures sends me running on any Sunday I am available. We had reservations for dinner later and a big morning breakfast, but other than that, this Sunday was fairly open. So it was off to market I go.
It needs to be mentioned that the flea market is kryptonite to my son. Lucas is non-verbal and, for a reason I don’t yet understand, he has issues with making turns or sometimes changing his path while browsing. It turns navigating those tables into a real challenge. If he had to stay home, that meant my wife had to, as well. Luckily, though, my eleven-year-old daughter Olivia had no obligations. So, as we all were seated in my office, I asked her to join me.
Hey, Liv. Want to go to the flea market?
My wife spun around in the computer chair with an, “Olivia! It’s Father’s Day!” That not-so-gentle reminder changed her tone, but not by much.
Daddy, I’ll go with you if you want.
It was delivered in the same tone you read it in. It was like I was asking her to do extra homework about vegetables. To be perfectly honest, though, I didn’t care if she came with me or not. I just wanted to go out for a bit. I can get trapped inside my own head a bit on days like this, haunted by ghosts of past holidays, and just wanted walk around somewhere to clear my mood. So I told her she didn’t have to. Again, my wife repeated her name and reiterated that this was her Father’s day. She had to do what her father wanted. Olivia went to get ready but I wasn’t feeling it. I told my wife why.
I don’t want her to come and be a little grump. She really doesn’t have to come with me. It’s fine.
Yes, she does. It’s Father’s Day. Either she goes or we all go.
Picturing Lucas screaming past folk art and old comic books in a train station parking lot was enough to send the point home. I wasn’t eager to teach her a big lesson in Father’s Day etiquette, but it was what it was. As her dad, it’s sort of my job. We jumped in the car and headed to the station.
The ride there was quiet. I talked at her about stories from Father’s Day gone by. It was kind of boring, but the whole journey had been awkward anyway. I could tell she wasn’t too thrilled about this trip, but to her credit, she was taking it like a champ – like a silently unhappy champ, but a champ nonetheless.
That’s when we pulled up…to an empty parking lot. Yup. For whatever reason, the fleas had all hopped away on this Sunday. I was stunned. No flea market on Father’s Day? It’s like Halloween without pumpkins. I stared in disbelief. She said the thing that was on both our minds.
After all that.
You said a mouthful, young lady. After all that. That’s when my dad instincts kicked in. I did a “eureka!” punch to the steering wheel and declared our destination.
With that, I drove off expecting applause. Instead, there was nothing. Silence. That’s how I learned that it had been way too long since we had last been there and my daughter had all but forgotten what it was. Had she remembered; she’d know that Rocket Fizz is a candy store which rivals Willy Wonka. To describe it would seem like an over-the-top exaggeration. There’s weird sodas and even more obscure candy. You instantly feel like you’re ten years old when you walk in. The whole place is amazing. This is not an ad either. I’m not saying it for free Pop Rocks. I’m saying it because it’s the truth.
The two of us spent the next twenty minutes running back and forth, plucking candy bars and gummy things, and dropping them into our basket. We found candy for the entire family and drove off to share our bounty.
The ride home was much different. She told me stories from her classroom and updates from her life. The whole time, we ate chocolate and smiled. It was awesome.
Once we got back and unloaded our Candy Sack, the day had taken a brighter turn. We had plenty of time before dinner and didn’t feel like we had spent the day being bored. Watching her open her Kinder Egg, still grinning, I had to ask.
Aren’t you happy you came with me now?
I was too. Some memories sneak up on you. They’re mentioned afterwards and you are surprised your kid even remembered. This wasn’t one of those. This was a memory that I saw created right before my eyes. It’s the type of thing you imagine her telling people one day – “When I was a kid, my dad took me to Rocket Fizz on Father’s Day.” I felt proud in that moment, not just for being a father, but for being the type of father I always wanted to be.
I never had Father’s Days like the ones I’ve made since becoming a father myself. They were, in a manner of speaking, different. The times I share with my daughter, and the rest of my family, are moments that I want her to happily take throughout life. I want the same for my son too. That’s why I work within his parameters to make sure we all are smiling by the end of the day. If that happens, I know I’ve succeeded. This Father’s Day, I succeeded.
Sure, I can make Olivia come to whatever dumb event I choose. It can be boring too. After all, it’s my day, my way. But I don’t want that. I want Father’s Day to be the kind of thing that she looks forward to each year and not just something she has to do to appease her old man. Don’t get me wrong, I have to enjoy it most of all, and I do. Flea markets. Candy stores. I’m a giant kid. But it’s not just about me, it’s about all of us. Anyone who wants to make genuine memories with their family needs to remember that.
Had the flea market been open, we would have gone and, if it was boring, I would have taken her to a Rocket Fizzy-like place after anyway. It may be my special day, but I want to make it the best it can be for everyone. Years from now, I don’t want to be the only one who thinks back on it fondly. After all, I may be the Father, but I wouldn’t be one if wasn’t for my family.