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Happy Father's Day

"Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad"

Wade Boggs

I was going to write about something else today, but it will wait, for today as I was doing my Montsalvat walk, I came across this. I think it's the same house that had some free oranges and rosemary last week, but today they had mini toblerones which is even more of a generous, thoughtful and also slightly humorous gesture.

Who says there is nothing to photograph in the suburbs?

Father's Day (and Mother's Day too) have never been particularly big in our house. Well not in the sense of buying gifts anyway. We did try to be extra specially nice to the person in question though and spoil them in some way. And of course, when our sons were young children, cards were made, and extra cuddles given. But it is a huge commercial thing these days is it not? Mind you this has its advantages. I remember being in France once on Father's Day and David being able to buy some of his favourite, and normally pretty expensive aftershave at a bargain price, because that's what all the perfume shops (don't you love them?) were concentrating on - men's fragrances. I did not do so well.

Father's Day, or a variation thereof is celebrated around the world but on different days according to various religious reasons, or just because it's near Mother's Day, or other cultural reasons.

The Roman Catholics celebrate it on St. Joseph's Day which is March 19th. Which makes sense. I've always thought that Joseph, Mary's husband, and Jesus' titular father is a somewhat neglected character from the bible. I mean he stepped in when Mary was pregnant - which may have been no mean thing back then. Whether he was, in fact, Jesus' father or not is not what is the issue here, but to all intents and purposes he was, as he would have been the person doing the dad thing. The 'nutritor domini' or 'nourisher of the Lord' in fact as the Catholic church calls him. This rather lovely painting by Murillo is just one of many. It's the one I preferred. In all the others, well almost all the others, that I saw, Joseph is shown as an old man, which is interesting, and probably is based on something in the bible, though I don't remember anything about him being old. He looked more like a grandfather than a father, which now that I think about it, is relevant to my husband, whose father was an older man. I do know that Joseph fades from the scene after Jesus leaves home and seems to be entirely forgotten. Which doesn't really seem fair.

The Greek Orthodox, on the other hand celebrate Father's Day on the 2nd Sunday before the Nativity, which is the Sunday of the Forefathers. The forefathers being the human ancestors of Jesus - all the way back to Adam and Eve, with particular emphasis on Abraham I believe. I'm not quite sure how they square the fact that Jesus is supposedly the son of God with the idea of him having fleshly ancestors - through Mary I suppose, although the bible doesn't really give her much of a role in conception other than being a vessel. Not like all those Greek and Roman gods whose partners definitely contributed their genes to all of the offspring.

Father's day as we know it today was apparently the brainchild of a lady called Sonoma Smart Dodd who had been brought up by her father. On Mother's Day in 1909 at church she had the brainwave of thinking that fathers should be celebrated in the same way, and persuaded her church to take it up. And so it was, and over time it grew into the commercial junket it is today.

And what about food? Well unlike mum who just gets breakfast in bed, dad tends to get barbecues and macho kind of food.

"Like all the best American imports, Father's Day is about eating, drinking and spending money. The usual hackneyed take on man food is that it's got to be big, it's got to be butch, and it's got to be bloody. Grrr. If it's cooked at all, it's got to be cooked with fire." Alex English - The Guardian

And as it happens today would be a good day for a barbecue, although not for a big family gathering barbecue.

Then there's chocolate and Toblerone in particular, which started all of this.

"I've absolutely no idea why milk chocolate and honey should be considered manly, but the good folk at Toblerone assure me they sold over a million bars for Father's Day last year." Alex English - The Guardian

I imagine they sold at least as much this year too. I know that my chocoholic husband has bought at least two bars in the lead up to Father's Day because "they were a bargain". And I confess I had some too - I do like Toblerone.

My husband had a difficult relationship with his father I think, as many men do. But he did get on well with my father - a loving, and gentle man. I love these two photos of three generations of 'men' - my father, my husband and my two sons - both of whom are proud and devoted fathers themselves now. They are constructing a letterbox for our second house in Donvale. My parents were here on one of their visits and my father, in particular, spent many happy hours with my sons, clearing up what was basically a building site. After all a letterbox is one of the first things that has to be constructed, so we had only just moved in.

But it's true that father/son relationships in particular are often somewhat fraught. It must be the innate masculine urge to compete. Yes women are competitive too but in a different way. After all way back in history there have been many sons of leaders who have ousted their fathers, even killed them in order to become the top dog themselves. In the animal kingdom it's an ongoing struggle to maintain the top spot - the father of the whole tribe.

“You don’t have to deserve your mother’s love. You have to deserve your father’s. He’s more particular.” Robert Frost

"A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.”

Frank A. Clark

There's hope in that last quote - it implies that each generation is better at the job because of learning from the mistakes of the previous generation. I don't know whether that truly happens, but I think perhaps in our recent three generations it is perhaps true.

With daughters it's probably different. Fathers are not so threatened by daughters are they? With sons, as they grow and become more independent, they must see that as pointing to their own decline. Something I do not think that mothers experience. But with a daughter there is no competition, or as Euripides put it way, way back in Ancient Greece:

"To a father growing old nothing is dearer than a daughter."

Though if I was a cynic I might say this was because he was expecting his daughter to look after him.

My husband has been a good father - perhaps not perfect, but then who is? He has certainly always been loving, if not always there, and sometimes, like all of us, less than patient but the proof is in what they have become, and in how good they are at the job themselves. A few more quotes I found that illustrate this aspect of fatherhood:

"My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived, and let me watch him do it."

- Clarence Budington Kelland

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” — William Shakespeare

“The greatest mark of a father is how he treats his children when no one is looking.” — Dan Pearce

Well I was looking because I took the photograph, but they don't seem to have noticed, so absorbed were they in the story that dad was reading to his two young boys.

“You can tell what was the best year of your father’s life, because they seem to freeze that clothing style and ride it out.” — Jerry Seinfeld

I'm not quite sure what year this clothing style represents - not when we were in England - but I think the T-shirt and long shorts denote the joy of this particular father at being in Australia. I tried to find a photo of him wearing clothes I remember from our early days together - the T-shirt yes - the shorts no - they are from Australian days and they seem to be his habitual wear in photographs going back several years. So let's go for that. His little grandson has the same look!

As I said at the beginning of this piece, David is not my father but I did make him a cake yesterday - we tried it last night. It was the pear and fruit mince cake I listed the other day on my piece on fruit mince. It was yummy, so I hope it will make up for not being with his sons and grandchildren on this beautiful Father's Day. But we've eaten all the toblerone and there will be no barbecue - or even steak. It's chicken.


I forgot to post yesterday's photos, so have added them to yesterday's post in retrospect. These were taken today.


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