Father’s Day Fish Slippers

It’s Father’s Day, and my daughter sent her dad a pair of fish slippers. Thankfully my husband’s sense of humor got passed down to our kids.

Getting to have laughs with your dad is a pretty nice thing. It makes me remember one special time I enjoyed with my father. I was around seven years old.

“You want to go to Long Island?” my dad said.

“Yes!” I shouted. “Can we? Can we?”

“Okay, let’s go.” We climbed into his big Buick (I think) and rode through Kingsport, Tennessee to the section of town called Long Island. Just ahead was the reason I always wanted to go.

“Get ready to go over the ski jump,” he said like a circus ringmaster, setting the mood as we approached the bridge across the Holston River.

I braced myself on the car seat, excited and happy and ready to soar. He pressed on the gas and the car lunged forward, picking up speed. As we went up the steep ramp leading to the bridge, the car pointed almost straight to the sky. The ramp launched us into the air and we soared for an eternity, like the Dukes of Hazard in slow motion. Without seatbelts to restrict me, my head bounced against the roof of the car and I squealed like someone on a roller coaster. The car nosed down and met the bridge with a springy bang as the old shock absorbers tried to cushion the blow, and we rode across the short bridge. “That was so fun!” I gushed. Right away Dad accelerated again and we flew completely over the ramp leading off the bridge, landing on the front tires a second before the back tires hit the pavement.

“Oh my gosh, we went so high,” I said in my excited, little girl voice. That was the closest I’d ever get to being in a rocket.

My dad made some turns in a neighborhood with small houses and rickety fences, then parked in front of one. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he climbed out. He opened the gate and went up on the porch, knocked softly, and ducked inside. I sat in the car and looked at the door he’d disappeared into, hoping he’d come right back out, and he did. He held a bottle by the neck in a brown paper bag that he tucked under his arm, trying to hide it as he walked back to the car. He got in and we headed back to the bridge. Again, he floored the gas pedal and we sailed up the ramp, and it was just as exhilarating pointing up at the sky and being weightless as we sailed through the air for those few seconds. Then the landing and bouncing several times as the car steadied itself just in time for the flight over the ramp off the bridge.

I’m not sure whether it was the thrill ride I enjoyed, or the time I got to spend with my dad and knowing he was doing the ski jump just to make me happy. I didn’t figure out until later that he was going to a bootlegger – this was when there were restrictive laws about alcohol sales in my town. Even when I found out, it didn’t diminish the fun I had going over the ski jump. In my young innocence I just thought my dad was utterly cool.

That’s my memory, and there are many more, some good and others not, but when I think of my dad, I think of fun times like the ski jump.

My son and daughter could probably say the same thing about their dad –there were good times growing up and not, but I hope they will always remember the humor, and reflect that back to their dad (and me) as we get older and need to laugh. Because a good laugh with your kids is the best gift of all. Happy Father’s Day, everyone!