Recently some friends and I sat around my little round kitchen table, in what still feels like my new little dining area, and shared some pizza and laughs. On the wooden shelf that hangs on the wall behind us is a little metal mouse, and my Dad’s hat – always, always a couple of conversation pieces.
My Dad never liked to draw attention to himself. He didn’t like being made a big deal of, and in any conversation, he was more likely to let someone go on and on about themselves, than to ever talk about himself. And it wasn’t as if he didn’t have interesting things about himself to share, because he certainly did! He’d tell a joke (often times over and over), before he’d ever brag about himself. I’m not sure if he realized it or not, but he didn’t have to talk about himself – his life spoke for him. And it spoke of him well.
Even as Dad’s birthday approached yearly and we’d ask what he wanted most, his response was always that he had everything he needed, and that we could just give him a great big kiss and a hug. And he meant it.
One year for his birthday, he just let us put paper tattoos all over his arms. I was pretty young, but remember it like it was yesterday. He laughed so hard that evening after work. We all laughed. It was great fun – probably one of my favorite memories, and his too!
Another birthday, I bought him a little figurine of two mice standing under an umbrella. (Come on, is this not the cutest little thing you ever did see?)
Another year, a little old lady down the street helped me make a bumble bee out of marbles for my Dad. He loved that I made him that bee! I still have those two little mice, but the bumble bee was lost in my move last year. Some day, these things won’t mean anything to anyone, and will probably be sold in my estate sale like the one I’m watching people go in and out of from my porch right now, or just thrown in the garbage.
But for now, I cherish them because they remind me that my Dad modeled a life for me that never, ever revolved around him. He never needed or sought attention, or accolades, or any kind of praise or acknowledgement. He was happiest when those he loved most rode around the block in the back of his old pick-up truck, or when we just sat around the table as a small family and sang Happy Birthday, and had a slice of anything sweet from Duncan Hines cake to a piece of bread with nothing but molasses on it. Gifts? Not necessary. Dad was easy to please, and easy to love.
Dad told us once that the gift he remembered getting most as a child was a little toy mouse. We laughed and decided we’d reenact that childhood birthday and get him a toy mouse for his birthday, so that’s what we did. We found a little rubber mouse, and we wrapped it up and gave it to him for his birthday after dinner. He loved it – not because it was what he wanted or needed. He loved it because it came from the little people he loved the very most, and because he knew how much we loved his story telling!
So my Dad’s hat hangs from the shelf in my favorite room in the house, and a little metal mouse that looks pretty real, sits on the shelf above it.
More than decor, they are reminders to me of the valuable lessons Dad left me with, and future opportunities I hope to have, to pass that wisdom down to my grandchildren.
So skip the gifts! Share the old stories, and make sure to collect some new ones! They don’t get sold in estate sales, or tossed in the dumpster at the corner. But with any luck, they will last and be cherished for generation after generation!
Aren’t stories the very best thing to pass down to our littles? I think so, and I am certain my Dad would have agreed. I can’t wait for the day when Lyla, Owen, or Maci pull up a chair, and finally ask me why there’s a mouse on the shelf. My Dad will surely smile from heaven.
Stories are PRICELESS!