Happy Father’s Day
to all the fathers!
I want to honor all the fathers. You are very important. You are an essential role-model for your children, and children, honor and respect your fathers. Ephesians 6:1-4 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’−which is the first commandment with a promise−’that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
This year will be my dad’s twelfth anniversary in heaven. I miss him tremendously and think of him often. I know I will see him in heaven some day.
I loved both my parents deeply while they were alive and presently treasure the memories that were woven through time.
Working in my parent’s laundry spanned many years, from childhood to adulthood. I wanted to grow closer to my dad as I grew older. I spent many hours after classes from elementary school through graduate school in the laundry with him.
During this Father’s Day, I’d like to share one of these memories with you, part of a memoir I am presently writing.
Under a Canopy of Sycamores
The falling temperature in the store was a signal for me to lock the doors to the laundry. One by one the shopkeepers, who didn’t have their own heating system, closed for the day heading for their warmer homes-Joe’s Shoemaker. Morty’s Drugstore and Luncheonette. Harry’s Meats. Jean’s Beauty Parlor. And Sammy’s Dry Cleaning. As the store lights went out, the streets lamps came on to light the path for the few weary commuters who worked late.
In that in between time of darkened storefronts and shadow casting street lamps, was the most terrifying darkness. Jumping at the sight of my own shadow, I warred with the wobbly screen door-pulling as hard as my shivering hands could pull. Its weathered-frame dug its claws into the frozen cement and gripped the ground in protest. With fear fueling me, I won the battle and latched it. Then I double locked the wood-framed glass door. The uninvited cold surged into the store.
The sole radiator at the front of the store clanged it last clang and hissed its last hiss for the night. Our unheated space was warmed by the fiery hot irons my ba-ba and I wielded in our hands. We ironed to the beat of rock ’n roll. The lyrics didn’t matter although they were seared onto my mind and awakened memories every time I heard them as an adult as oldies on the radio.
Get ready for the big chill. The mercury will hover around 25 degrees this evening. The winds at 10 miles per hour will make it feel like 15 degrees. The winds will pick up as the mercury drops tonight. Make sure you bundle up if you’re going out. Snow is expected tomorrow evening. Now back to Cousin Brucee.
This is Couuu-zin Bruceee. Snow is on the way! Let’s warm up with Sixteen Candles on this chilly evening. Numm-berr ten in our countdown this week, The Crests…
Happy birthday, happy birthday, baby
Oh, I love you so
Sixteen candles make a lovely light
But not as bright as your eyes tonight…
As the temperature continued its descent, we donned our thickest sweaters. Eventually adding more layers to keep us warm as the last store with its own furnace closed for the night and as lone shoppers made their way homeward with their bundles.
Moving up this week from the numm-ber ten slot is The Coasters. Numm-berr nine in our top ten countdown is Charlie Brown.
Fe fe fi fi fo fo fum
I smell smoke in the auditorium
Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown
He’s a clown, that Charlie Brown
He’s gonna get caught; just you wait and see
(Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me…)
I raced my father in an imaginary contest to see if I could iron more shirts than he did by closing time. I set the iron’s temperature to blister-making hot to keep my hand warm and to help me iron as fast as I could. Any slowdown would scorch the shirts and burn my hand. My left hand pulled the fabric taut so that the iron in my right could slide over the faint wrinkles like an ice skating blade gliding across the ice leaving a smooth remembrance.
First the front of the collar, and then the back. Now the buttonholes, first the front and then the back. Then the side with buttons. Careful, around each button. Don’t rip them off. Around each gently…
This is Couu-zzin Bruceee with this week’s top ten countdown. Numm-berr six this week is Kansas City by Wilbert Harrisson…
I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come
I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come…
Left sleeve. Front and back. Right sleeve…
They got a crazy way of loving there
And I’m gonna get me some…
Not one wrinkle! Now all I need to do is to slip the paper inside the shirt and start buttoning. Remember to match the top button with the top buttonhole. Now the middle button and the last.
Burrr…It’s cold outside. Couu-zzin Bruceee with numm-berr four in our countdown this week, Paul Anka’s Lonely Boy.
Here’s the tricky part−flip the whole shirt over to the back without the paper falling out. One, two, three, flip. Great, the paper stayed in! Now fold the left side. Fold the long sleeve. The right side. Now the whole shirt in half. Flip again over to the front. A perfect rectangle!
How did I do ba-ba?
…I’m all alone with nothin’ to do
I’ve got everything you can think of
But all I want is someone to love
Someone, yes someone to love
Ba-ba props his iron up and walks over to my side of the ironing platform. He smoothes his right hand over the shirt like he’s re-ironing it. Inspects the corners closely. And rubs the starched collar between his thumb and index finger like he’s trying to separate the pages of a new book.
How smooth. Not one wrinkle. And so neatly folded. You iron faster and better than me, he says dotingly as he lowers his forehead to touch mine and kisses me on the cheek.
I love you.
Couuu-zin Bruceee here with this week’s top ten count down to keep you warm. Up frroom last week’s numm-berr three spot is Venus. Herrre’s Frankie Avalon in the numm-berr two spot this week…
Hey, Venus! Oh Venus!
Venus if you will
Please send a little girl for me to thrill
A girl who wants my kisses and my arms
A girl with all the charms of you…
This encouragement fuels my hands to even iron faster.
I need to iron two more to be ahead of you, ba-ba.
Hey, Venus! Oh, Venus!
Make my wish come true.
That was Venus, numm-ber two this week. Couu-zin Brueee here with the top ten countdown for the week. Aaand nummm –ber one this week, two weeks in a row, izzz… Bobby Darin’s Mack the Knife!
Oh the shark, babe, has such teeth dear
And it shows them pearly white…
Time to finish up. Make this your last shirt. It’s getting late, and it’s getting very cold. We have to go home.
Can I just iron one more? Please? Please, baa-ba?
Now that Macky’s back in town
Look out, old Macky’s back!!
No. Finish the one you’re ironing. It’s late and getting too cold. Maa-me will have dinner waiting for us. We’ve got to get home.
Next time I’ll be faster! I almost ironed more shirts than you did tonight, ba-ba!
Remember to turn the radio off.
We bundle up. I in my gray and red-checkered coat with a gray fake-fur collar that feels two sizes too small and ba-ba in his gray wool jacket. I tuck my red wool hood into my coat collar and pull on my red gloves. My arms bulge like Popeye, and my body feels like a sausage. Buttons ready to pop.
We step into a night laced with crystals. The moon a yellow ball floated high above us in the blackest, black sky. We run across the street. The roar of passing cars become a distant hum as we walk under a canopy of sycamore trees. Its bare branches quiver in the icy wind as if ready to snatch me up. I tighten my grip on my father’s calloused hand. The chilled air teases a cough from my chest. I shiver and pull my head down into my coat like a turtle pulling its head into its shell seeking shelter.
Ba-ba kneels down to make sure my hood is securely buttoned.
Don’t worry. Everything’s all right. I love you.
Our foreheads touch. He gently kisses my cheek, and squeezes me in his arms. The whirling wind envelopes us in the fragrant pomade from his hair. Its lightness caresses my nose’s memory.
My eyes follow his tall, straight body as he stands up. A giant. Like one of the sycamore trees. His cheeks singed red from the cold. His thick, ebony hair slicked back. I feel the warmth of his hand through my wool glove as he takes my right hand again. Everything is all right.
Sometimes we talked as we walked. Our breath an alternating crystal mist dissipating into the darkness.
Now when you cough, don’t swallow the phlegm. Spit it into a tissue.
Yes, ba-ba, I’d nod.
I must remember to take tissues to school with me every day.
Sometimes he’d give me a little English lesson. When you have to go to the bathroom in school, tell the teacher, I need to go to the toilet.
I-need-to-go-to-toilet, I’d echo.
I will remember the words, ba-ba.
Most of the time he gave me words of caution and encouragement.
You, your sister, and brothers are our hope. Study hard. Don’t grow up and work in a laundry. Stay away from troublemakers. Confucius says that if you are near white, you will become white. If you are near black, you will become black. If you see someone doing something wrong, get away from them. You will be blamed, because you look different. You are Chinese. You must not shame me. You must bring honor to the family.
Sometimes we raced the cold in silence. Drifting forward with the wind. Two misty clouds appearing and disappearing with increasing frequency under a canopy of quivering sycamore branches in the quiet race toward home.
Copyright 2009 by Nurturing Wisdom