Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Papa Day

Well, it is not every day that my pop comes to town. In fact, I haven't seen him in 1.5 years and that was just for two quick meals (I was in "Grease" doing 2 shows a day and he was just passing through). Then rewind to 3.5 years ago when I saw him briefly in Iowa for a meal or two. So it is nice to have him back in town when I have some free time for talking, hanging out, sharing a glass of wine and eating some more meals. Also, it is rather nice timing that he was able to come to Vermont on Father's Day weekend. We were never much for holidays in our non-traditional family but there isn't any Hallmark harm in such a nice opportunity to spend some quality time with our paw.

Despite our parents divorce, we saw a lot of our dad when we were kids. We spent a lot of our summers with dad in the empty countryside of Cherry Valley, NY - ambling down dusty dirt roads and visiting with the strange neighbors. We also spent a lot of time with him in NYC where he lived with his new wife, a violinist (our parents are flutists so many of their mates were also musicians).

I remember him throwing me above his head, so high that his hands actually let go of me and I felt like I was floating. Then, just when I was sure I would crash to the floor, he would catch me and deliver me safely to the floor. Their apartment had high ceilings, a plant-covered balcony and roof access. Downstairs was a psychic with a little dog who played weegee boards with us.

Eventually, Dad divorced again and moved in with a violist on the Upper West side. We used to spend the weekends with them and go out to Hunan Garden on the corner of Broadway and 96th St for my favorite dish, Beef and Broccoli. Dad got multiple large blue drinks and I drank many Shirley Temples with umbrellas and cherries. If it was a special day, we got spare ribs. Dad called me "Eva the Beavah" and told me stories about my two favorite NY characters who were named simply, "Pee and Poo." They were simple tales that went something like this.

"One day Poo was sitting on the subway and an old lady sat down next to him. She squawked when she saw him and ran to the opposite side of the car. 'What are you doing here?' she screamed. Then Pee poked out from under her shoe and said, 'Lady, what's the problem?' Then Poo and Pee went to the Cloisters and looked at the unicorn tapestries."

Actually, I made that particular story up but they usually involved the subway and they always had me in stitches. Needless to say, I still love me some potty humor.

Years later, Dad left NYC for a teaching job in Bloomington, Indiana. We still saw him every year or so. He bought a Honda Civic with a sunroof and we drove around the flat Indiana backroads kicking up dust. Dad went jogging almost every day and when passing the golf course near his house, picked up any golf balls that made it out of the fence. He had multiple jars and containers chock full of golf balls - there must have been over a 1000 of those buggers. His house was all 70s ranch style with a sunken living room, stone fireplace, cement deck, intercoms in the rooms and a bedroom Margot and I could share.

Dad often cooked up big Italian meals (fresh pesto, mmm) and made us cappucinos on his pride and joy, his Italian espresso machine imported from Italy. He would squeeze the espresso manually by pulling down a heavy lever and steam the milk with the power of water pressure (which could explode if one was not careful, say no more). This was years ago before the Starbucks craze when specialty coffee drinks were rare outside of Europe. My friends all thought it was super cool that I could make an amaretto flavored steamed milk in my kitchen.

Visiting with Dad was like a decadent vacation abroad. We got to eat out at least twice a week and usually had brunch out on the weekends. We never ate out in VT, we were too poor and there was only one restaurant in Johnson and it sucked.

Then there was our slightly painful trip to Europe when I was 15 yrs old. It was my first trip overseas. Dad took Margot and I to Switzerland to see our family. We spent most of our time in the little Swiss German town of Bleienbach which both of my grandparents hail from. It is quaint and perfect with horse drawn carts clopping down the dirt streets and old couples sweeping their stoops. Our family's home is a picturesque two level Swiss farm house with a brown shingled exterior and window boxes full of red geraniums (classic Swiss homestead look).

The older generation lived on the top floor (Rosi and Fritz) and the younger generation lived on the bottom floor (Fritz Jr, Heidi and their kids). The two Fritzs ran the family farm together which was connected to the back of the house and consisted of a large stretch of green pasture, dairy cows, chickens, and pigs. If my grandfather had been born the eldest, he would have been the one to live upstairs and some variation of me would have been brought up in the bottom level of that classic Swiss home. Instead, as the younger son with no inheritance, he set off to America to marry my granny and seek his fortune in the wilds of Iowa.

We stayed upstairs in a room with lace curtains and ate delicious farm fare with Rosi and Fritz such as salad fresh from the garden, eggs from the hen house, homemade jam and wafer thin Swiss cookies and meat slaughtered the month previous. Fritz Sr had sections of his fingers missing from various farming incidents. The entire family worked hard and were always doing something during the daylight hours. What a bunch of foreign loafers we were (are)!

They took us on country walks and Dad and Margot spoke their dirty German and tried to translate for me. We also visited Bern, Les Diablerets and Geneva to see other sides of the family. We even had a big Sollberger family reunion where I realized that our family is not really small as I had always thought, it is just that we are fresh off the boat and have yet to spread in American soil.

Traveling is always a bit difficult and even more so when you are an angst ridden 15 yr old traveling with your awkward older sister and loud father. I was mortified and embarrassed most of the trip: always wanting Dad to lower his voice and make less of a spectacle of himself; always rolling my eyes and becoming frustrated easily at every set back. Dad was oblivious to my teenage antics and this annoyed me even more. I've been back to Europe on my own since then (see pics here) and I can't help but regret my immaturity on that first trip. It would have been nice the second time around to have Dad to talk loudly and point out every landmark.

Next Dad moved out to San Diego to teach at UCSD where he is still teaching today. He got a beautiful house with a kidney shaped pool and a pool house that was 9 blocks from the ocean in Pacific Beach. Again, visiting San Diego was always a treat: big breakfasts at the Broken Yolk, shopping sprees in the used bookstores he haunted, dinners at his favorite Italian restaurant and nightly walks around town. In some ways, San Diego is a soulless place but the houses are brightly candy colored and the scantily clothed people are friendly.

All in all, we had some good times following my dad around to his various towns, schools, retreats and homes and accompanying him to bookstores, coffee shops, movie theaters and restaurants. And now we are all grown up and we don't see too much of Dad. Lives happen and paths separate. But we are lucky to have him in Vermont for Father's Day to eat many fattening meals, stroll around town, peruse bookstores and discuss pop culture. It is nice to be grown up and spend time with your parents. All the petty embarrassments and insecurities of childhood disappear and you can just be a couple of grown ups with shared history having a conversation.

Dads are a really special creature and our Dad is one in a million. Not many people can conduct a symphony with a pencil, keep an orchestra in check, tell stories about Pee and Poo, speak dirty German and Italian, take you out to brunches, teach you how to make cappucinos, compose unique music, and spend hours upon hours with you browsing bookstores.

So Happy Father's Day Dad, thanks for being you and for coming out to see us! This bearded emoticon is for you! ={)
Love, love, love from your crazy deadbeat daughters!! =)

In honor of Father's Day, why not get your dad Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" which chronicles her complicated relationship with her father and its multiple effects on her life. Check out Margot's most excellent review of the book here.


The Le Duo said...

your dad looks just like the crazy-freaky-european-musician that I strive to become


Eva the Deadbeat said...

hee hee, here is how you do it. #1. drink lots of coffee/espresso every day, 2. drink lots of wine every night, 3. compose lots of whacky atonal music, 4. immitate a bird whilst conducting, flap your arms around a lot, 5. read a lot of philosophy, 6. spend most of your time in bookstores, coffee shops and pondering the meaning of existence...

and voila, you too can be a be a crazy-freaky-european-musician! ;) (my first emoticon on this blog ever!!)

Q_Monroe said...

your dad seems nice. just like you.

Tmoore said...

indeed, Eva "seems" nice.

good eye monroe, good eye.

;D (millionth emoticon)

(i) <--- pop quiz!

Eva the Deadbeat said...

aw shucks, gosh, :*), thanks miss! have a great time in B-town and you will be very very very missed!!!!!! come home soon!

Eva the Deadbeat said...

oh Tanner, you and your wit, sarcasm and plentiful emoticon usage...i got one for you: :-&

this is my new secret language:

Eva the Deadbeat said...


(:3= Walrus
:-@ screaming
¬_¬ sarcasm or mean looks
(*_*) star-struck
(ρ_-)o sleepy / rubbing eyes

i will OD on these little buggers, i swear to god!