This year, she decided, was going to be different. This year, Father’s Day was not going to sneak up on her, sending her scurrying to the all night Wal-Mart as the eve melted into the day. She would not be groping through the picked over remnants in the seasonal card rack, looking for something vaguely appropriate. She would not be waking her son at 9:00 on the day itself, hissing, “Sign this!” before bundling a festive load of goodies downstairs, trilling, “Happy Father’s Day, Hon!” as if this had all, somehow, been planned and executed well before.
This year, she would not be trying to pitch fried egg and bologna sandwiches as a cool, festive breakfast–a retro flashback to early fatherhood days.
This year, it was going to be GOOD.
On Wednesday afternoon, she took a couple of hours of personal time. She dragged the At-Home Son to the department store, and there they pored over the fully stocked shelves of Father’s Day cards. They picked out cards that were just exactly right. And they got cards for the Married And A Daddy And Living Far Away Son, too.
They purchased two frames: a collage board that would hold a dozen pictures, and a rustic wooden frame he could stand proudly on his desk at work.
At the supermarket, they bought breakfast goodies–a loaf of sliced Italian bread, and steak sliced so thin it would cook in seconds and cut like butter with the edge of a fork. She would get a dozen fresh eggs from a colleague whose kids kept hens. They would make French toast and broil the little steaks for breakfast.
At home, she got on the Internet and explored, and she located a salvage place one could wander through, soaking in inspiration. The owners gleaned the good stuff from old and abandoned buildings, from buildings destined for the wrecking ball, and they refurbished it, or they repurposed it. They had a multilevel store full of wonders.
She showed the site to the at-home son. They agreed: Father’s Day destination. They bumped fists. They said, “This year, we have nailed the Father’s Day celebration.”
They forgot about the cards in the drawer until Saturday.
“Oh, SHOOT!” she said, and she dug them out. She addressed the card to Far Away Son; the other boy, and the dad, both signed it. The dad drove it over to the post office, sheepishly. He had forgotten all about Father’s Day.
When the dad came home, he said, “Well, at least he should get it Monday. And I’ll call him tomorrow.”
As they ate their barbecued chicken and home fries, it began to pour, and then to thunder. They watched a movie (Maleficent) together, the three of them. The little dog shivered on her lap as each illumination signaled another thundering crash. When they went to bed that night, the rain was still coming down.
But in the morning, the world was fresh-washed. She was up by 5:45 AM; the little dog trotted downstairs at her heels, and they got the leash and went out into the sparkling morning. The dog performed nobly and diligently. She picked up the newspapers from the front yard, and took them in–local, regional, New York Times.
She made her coffee and did the crossword puzzle and the cryptoquip while the boys slept on. She got out the cards and the picture frames. She took the little steaks out of the freezer and arranged them on the cooking sheet. She cracked the fat brown eggs into a bowl. She whipped a frothy egg bath for the French toast, an egg bath scented with nutmeg and cinnamon and vanilla.
The dad came down then, and she woke up the boy, and he gave his father the cards.
“Aw,” said the dad. “Aw. Thanks, Buddy.”
They looked through the photos on the collage–photos of the dad with his own father, who was no longer available on this earth to call and wish a Happy Father’s Day. There were photos of the dad as a toddler, of the dad with a baby son on his shoulder. There were photos at his grad school graduation, a hulking boy under each arm, all three beaming. There were photos of his whole extended family gathered around the legendary family table, a time when the sons had become fathers and three generations gathered to share some sauce and pasta, to laugh and to reminisce.
The dad looked through all the pictures solemnly. He stood the single frame, with its picture of himself and the two boys when they were youngsters, on the table. There was a silence, and when he looked up, his eyes were glistening. He said thanks, and then he said he thought he’d go and message his brothers and the Far Away Boy, send them a greeting that would be a little more serious than ones he might have sent in years past.
He took his phone out onto the screened in porch. He spent some time composing a message, and then he sent it off.
Meantime, she turned on the broiler and heated up the griddle and the boy got out plates and silverware; he made his dad a cup of steaming tea, and he poured glasses of juice for everyone. The steak was broiling and the toast was dancing in a sizzling pan when the dad came into the kitchen.
He seemed thoughtful.
“Look at this,” he said. He held out his phone.
There was a message from his brother. It said, “Thanks for the lovely sentiment. But it’s FLAG day, you horse’s butt. Father’s Day is NEXT week.”
“What!” she cried, and they whirled, the three of them as a unit, and they peered at the calendar hanging by the picture window. And damn, it was true: they were celebrating Father’s Day one entire week early.
They stared at each, stricken. One or two of them might have been thinking, “Whom can I blame?” But each of them was in it up to their mighty waistlines.
“Well,” she said, slowly, [there has to be an upside], “well…” and she brightened. “Hey! At least Far Away Boy will get his card on time!”
A pause; a breath; a long exhale; and they exploded into laughter. What eejits we are! What rockheads! What a buncha maroons!
Breakfast was lovely, and they lingered over it, and then, working as a team, they cleaned up the dishes and made themselves presentable, and they took the road trip to the salvage place.
And what a wonder that was. The dad wandered, picking up old door handles, rescued wood, smoothed and gleaming, and vintage tools that looked as though they might still work. The boy exclaimed over steam punk creations. There were towering doors of precious solid wood, and sculptures, and sturdy, rusting outdoor chairs; there were corbels and radios and signs with the lettering rubbed fine by time.
She took their picture in front of a huge old stone statue of David, rescued from some august building. He towered over their heads, four feet taller than they. They positioned themselves neatly to hide any other towering attributes.
They had lunch at a favorite grill–burgers and club sandwiches, fries crisp and perfect. They went to the bookstore nearby and each found a long-sought treasure.
They drove the fifty miles back to their own little city, and, on impulse, they stopped at the coffee shop and sipped steaming brews and read their new books.
At home, they went off to take care of their own stuff, and then, about 8 PM, they all wound up in the kitchen for a nosh. They agreed it had been a very nice Sunday, even if they had totally blown the celebration of Father’s Day.
“Eh,” said the At-Home Son. “Flag Day, Father’s Day. Flagger’s Day! Who’s to say?”
The three of them pondered that. Flagger’s Day, indeed.
She thought about flagging–flagging spirits, flagging energy, joy and hope that flag and fade. And she thought it might not be a bad idea to have a floating holiday called Flagger’s Day: a day to refresh and give a thoughtful gift or two, to cook a special breakfast. To take a trip that was purely fun. A day all flaggers could replenish.
“I think,” she said, “that we should do this every year, the second Sunday in June: celebrate Flagger’s Day. Do something fun and refreshing.”
The Dad and The Son agreed, solemnly; that, they said, is just what we will do.
Or, she thought, anytime, really. We can celebrate Flagger’s Day anytime we’re feeling sapped or depleted. And anyone can call it,–anyone whose fuel tank is desperately low has the right to say, “I call Flagger’s Day!” and the whole unit will spin into planning.
A new holiday, she thought, a new observance–a new thing to look forward to. Not such a bad thing.
Now she just had to figure out what to do next week when real Father’s Day rolled around.