Little mementos and small gestures are the way to my heart. If my house were on fire I would grab my hope chest. Well, my husband Cody would carry my hope chest — it’s a little on the heavy side. Inside the chest are my dad’s worn tie-dye shirts, sweats and socks laden with holes, family photos from trips the family took to Disneyland in Dad’s Peterbilt truck when we were small, photos of all of the 18-wheelers I grew up in. One in particular: a picture of my dad’s first love, his Peterbilt that he lovingly referred to as Bernie. He came home from work one afternoon and parked as close as he could to the front porch. I remember running outside and asking “What happened to your truck dad!” As I pointed at what I thought was mud all over the fender and hood of his truck. “I knocked the shit out of a bull!” he said.
I’ve got Dad’s wallet and old photo ID’s. Most people at a glance would see a middle-aged man, nothing peculiar or unique. When I look at these old ID’s I see tired eyes and can’t help but notice the look on my dad’s face, the classic DMV mugshot tells a story. His handle bar mustache, and “lets get this over with smile.” I can tell what time of year each one was taken: Harvest, if he’s looking pretty thin which means he was in the thick of apples when sleeping was a privilege and cat naps on the couch after a Gino’s pizza were the staples of his summer. Winter, if he’s looking rather plump after eating too many of mom’s homemade apple pies, or biscuits from scratch and canned strawberry jam, all of the fruits of mom’s labor. The real tell tale sign — three out of five buttons done up on his Levis 501s.
Tucked away at the bottom of my hope chest, a couple of the hair bandannas he wore when his hair fell out those last six months. I like to think good hair runs in the family. I always tell people his hair was similar to Chachi from Happy Days, always towel dried, always on point.
And there’s an old set of headphones with the familiar smell of stinky trees (air fresheners) and cigarette smoke, the smell of my childhood. Birthday cards and envelopes addressed in Dad’s handwriting to Dolly.
There’s something really personal about handwriting. I always enjoyed my father’s handwriting. His signature, one of a kind. His free hand, all capital letters. When I look at his handwriting now it is telling of his character. Bold, each stroke of the pen distinct and with purpose.
I look forward to leaving my son Dallas letters personally written by me. (Chances are he won’t notice every detail the way I do, but you never know!) I was given the most special gift I’ve received from a dear friend at my baby shower — A small booklet called “Letters To My Son” by author Lea Redmond, a paper time capsule you write now and read later. Inside you will find 12 letters to be written for future dates. A few examples of the templates: When you were little my first impressions of you were//The future you, all the things I hope you’ll try someday//On the day you were born…etc. Adorned with stickers to secure each envelope as you seal. On the back of the envelope two boxes for you to fill in the date the letter was sealed and a date to be opened. If you know me, you guessed it, I’ve already started filling out Dallas’ book.
When I think of my dad I don’t think of the Uggs he bought me for Christmas, though they were very nice, or the money he spent on me, though he was forever getting out a hundred dollar bill when I asked to borrow twenty.
I think of the long talks we had and the lessons he taught me, Most of all I miss the hugs. We never left without a hug and “I love you”. I still haven’t figured out how to bottle up a hug and save it for later. For now a little Brut on my pillowcase will do the trick. What I wouldn’t do to have a book filled with letters written by him for future dates. When I want to talk to him now I get out the laptop and YouTube songs from our past. “Grandpa” by the Judds. I can tell you all about them good ol’ days in his semi. “Delta Dawn” by Tanya Tucker, because she’s forty one and her daddy still calls her baby. Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways To Lose Your Lover”. This one came in particularly handy when my high school boyfriend and I called it quits. Can’t forget his favorite, “Take The Long Way Home” by Supertramp. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve looked up the lyrics to this one and wondered if he was trying to tell me something.
“When the lonely days turn to lonely nights, you take a trip to the city lights, take the long way home. Take the long way home.”
Recently I figured out that I always roll my window down in our truck just a little no matter the temperature. And no, not because I’m smoking but because its another familiar sound of my childhood. He was smoking when he had the window cracked no doubt, that or trying to show off the sound made when blowing his jake break down fifth street at 10 p.m.. There wasn’t a time we rounded that S curve below the house that he didn’t turn to look at me, I can still see the huge smile on his face while proudly exclaiming: “Do you hear that!”
If you’re looking for a special baby shower gift, look no further than this book. Many people will purchase blankets and adorable outfits with bows and frills but not many will think of something so thoughtful and heartfelt. The author makes many versions, such as letters to my son, letters to my daughter, letters to my mom or dad, letters to my love (hint, hint Cody), letters to my grandchild, etc. They are cost friendly, ranging from $8-12 dollars per booklet.
Take it from a girl that would LOVE to hear from her Dale one more time. Take a second and purchase this book for your son/daughter, for your friend, co-worker or a mom-to-be. Spend a few moments drafting a note that will be cemented in time. After all, you know what they say. The only worlds you’ll regret are the ones you didn’t say.