For J.’s first Expectant Father's Day, we planned to have brunch at his cousin's house after chilly, overcast weather seemed to put a crimp in plans for the family to meet at a nearby park and lake where the cousin had rented a shelter. So after checking that we were indeed meeting at the house, we set off. But enroute, with me in my flip flops thinking we'd be inside, the cousin’s wife calls and says plans have changed because J.’s mom is already set up at the shelter. Uh, okay.
We show up a the admittedly picturesque park, but not only is it 55 degrees out (but no rain, thankfully), the shelter is like 10 miles from the parking lot. Okay, it's really only a brisk 3-5 minute walk. But we've got cookout crap to carry and J’s 90 year old great aunt who’s had two knee surgeries is also with us and has to walk it too (and she had on three layers just thinking we'd be in the house!). Not to mention me with my Buddha belly, in flip flops, a capri jogging suit, and my customary internal thermostat at a level that registers 75 degrees as the start of comfortable.
But I grabbed my "emergency" fleece blanket from the car, put it on like a sarong, and toughed it out. Because the first rule of camping or cooking out is "no complaining." Or it should be. J. remarked, "Yeah, that's why I don't camp." :-) He and his mom have already made it clear that growing up, their family’s idea of roughin' was a deluxe motor home or a two star hotel. That approach has carried through to adulthood for him.
In fact, along those lines, my favorite quote of the day came from J.’s mom. She’s planning their bi-annual family gathering for next summer. We usually go to one of the resorts where she has timeshares which are always in picturesque, touristy locations with abundant nearby shopping, preferably outlet stores, for her and the other ladies in the family.
I suggested looking into Lake Chelan in Eastern Washington, which is a picturesque annual vacation and reunion hotspot for many families. Plus, the weather on that side of the Cascade mountains is generally much sunnier and warmer than Western Washington and the Oregon coast, where we’ve gone before.
“Lake Chelan?” she said, skeptically. “There’s nothing to do over there. Unless you like fishing or boating or hiking or bike riding or swimming or camping or things like that. I mean, it's dead.” Uh huh. I see your point. Zero activity in those parts. Forget I mentioned it. :-)
Conversely, my family had our fair share of camp outs in rustic cabins or tents, slept in sleeping bags on lumpy sleeping pads, cooked on open fires, and generally did the whole northwest outdoorsy thing. In fact, my middle and high school, in addition to annual, multi-day beach hikes and camping trips for the entire grade, even had a wilderness requirement to graduate: you had to spend a week or more camping in the wilderness with a group of other students and instructors. It was good experience to get under my belt even though I haven't camped in years.
So back to Father’s Day. Basically, and thankfully, everyone opted to just suck it up and deal with the crappy weather. People put on hats, gloves and whatever clothes and fabric they could find in their cars, hung out a bit, and ate and grilled a boat load of food: salmon, burgers, hotdogs, shrimp skewers, chicken and vegetable shish kabobs, salads, pasta salads, baked beans, spaghetti and of course, several cakes and banana pudding for dessert. Yes really. And yes, they do this kind of spread for all family gatherings. Although the sheer amount of food can seem a bit much sometimes, I have to admit it was so nice to marry into another family that can cook just like the one I grew up in. I always feel kind of bad for people who say they grew up on takeout or frozen dinners because neither of their parents cooked.
But after about two hours, the wind picked up and we were all like, "Everyone done eating? Great. Let's pack up and go to the house." So that's where we spent the remainder of the afternoon/early evening , watching a movie with the heat cranked!
And J. loved his gifts: a daddy/daughter advice book and a book with beautiful black and white pictures of African American men ruminating on what fatherhood has meant to them as sons and as fathers themselves. “I can’t wait,” J. said with a smile. Good answer and that makes two of us.