People always get really worried about me on Thanksgiving. They grow exceptionally concerned over what I — as a vegetarian — will eat on this auspicious day. Being a vegetarian is a fact that goes mostly overlooked 364 days a year, but on Thanksgiving, people gasp in horror, clutch their throats and make apologies such as, “I am deeply sorry for all of this,” as though they alone were responsible for propagating nearly 400 years of culinary history.
Then they offer to seat me at the kiddie table in case I am not only starving but offended by the platters of steaming turkey and sausage stuffing. I become much like the dog lurking under the table, and the soft-hearted toss little bits of bread at me.
Father’s Day, I have come to notice, is regarded with the same anxiety for a divorced woman and mother. People lean in close and whisper in a strained tone, “What will you do for Father’s Day?” The solution is as simple as the one for Thanksgiving: I still participate.
While I may not purchase a gift of my own for the father of my children any longer, I still manage the process. I ensure the children make cards festooned with drawings of our family with special attention paid to the largest of the stick figures. I insist they make coupons, offering a dubious currency of back rubs and room cleanings. They purchase something absurd with their own money, such as a package of Double Stuffed Oreos, and wrap it themselves. I remind them, before they slide away for the weekend at their dad’s home, that fathers love breakfast in bed. Even if it is 5:15 a.m.
It doesn’t matter whether the father is joined by a mother. It doesn’t matter if Father’s Day falls on a day the mother would have them. Much like it doesn’t matter whether you eat turkey or not on Thanksgiving, it’s about being in a circle of people who make you crazy, in the worst and absolute best of ways. It’s about giving thanks to those you made and those who made you. It’s not the turkey or the monogrammed cufflinks that bring us close — It’s the assemblage of people working together to make a certain day special.
And, let’s face it, fathers need a day dedicated to their honor because who else:
— Falls for the excuse, “I’m allowed to have Shirley Temples,” at every restaurant.
— Can throw a child so high that it makes old ladies loose their teeth.
— Fills a grocery cart with absolutely nothing included on the shopping list.
— Will find the perfect sticks for roasting s’mores.
— Makes a little girl’s ponytail using a bungee cord.
— Teaches water safety by screening the movie “Jaws.”
— Puts together a lunchbox that has no nutritional content but comes home empty every time.
— Purchases the shoes that have lasers and lights and audio and rolling wheels.
— Will say that pushing the bully back is the right thing to do sometimes. And that detention is a necessary evil at least once in your life.
— Will make a daughter blush with pride every time they say, “My girl.”
— Tears up when King Triton gives Ariel away to that Prince who was going to marry the other girl just a few minutes prior.
— Transforms a shopping cart into a race car.
— Can make every child fall asleep without having to read a single bedtime story.
Happy Father’s Day. To mine, to the father of my children, and to all the dads who probably just barked at their kids to go get this very newspaper.