On Mother#039;s Day, we remember #045; Dad?

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

We all know what tomorrow is, so I'm going to jump on the bandwagon and ponder the many facets of Mother's Day.

Only - I'm going to talk about Dad.

Mother's Day may have been designed to honor mothers, but it's the fathers, especially those with young children, who do all the work getting ready for it - or catching the heat when they don't.

Growing up in a Methodist orphanage in the backwoods of Arkansas, my dad took holidays very seriously. Christmas was a production at our house I have rarely seen surpassed outside of Rockefeller Center. Easter involved a week-long marathon of egg-dying wih competitions (including the ugliest, using the last of the dyes after they had gotten hopelessly mixed togather). Halloween took weeks of planning and elaborate homemade costumes.

Mother's Day, however, was different. In all of the other holidays, we kids were included, whether we wanted to be or not, in the planning and execution stages. We knew every tricky little plot detail, every strategic manuever. Dad embraced us as willing and sneaky co-conspirators, which we were, and we worked together to make the holidays as fun - and funny - as possible.

The difference between that rambunctious celebrating and how he treated our mother on Mother's Day was like the difference between a Who concert and a ballet. (OK, I'm dating myself. It was like the difference between Eminem and Enya.)

She would get the classic tray with the card and flower propped on it, breakfast in bed, the works.

The only thing we got to do was sign the card Dad picked out. It was never a funny card, always a sweet one, and it always made my mom, who was not a sentimental woman, tear up.

Then, the most mysterious thing of all. Our Mother's Day gift to our mother was to disappear from the face of the earth for one afternoon. She and Dad would go to the movies - without us! They would go out to eat, go to Nashville, or simply go for a drive in the country - but without us! What kind of Mother's Day was that?

When a mom has five kids with 15 years between the oldest and youngest, it was an afternoon of paradise, I have no doubt now.

I doubt my Dad ever did anything for his own mother on Mother's Day. It was the Depression and he was the seventh of eight in a dirt-poor family. By the time he was eight, both parents had died and he and the three other youngest found themselves in an orphanage, their Mother's Days behind them.

But not forever. As with Christmas and Easter and Halloween, Dad made up for those empty years with a gleeful vengeance.

Dad found his own family, all five of us. Boy-girl-boy-girl-boy, he called us his "Full House" and we certainly were. We were full house of love and a full house of tradition.

What traditions he didn't bring with him, he made up as he went along, and the sweetest and gentlest of those was Mother's Day, when, for one quiet afternoon, his lifemate could be his wife and partner, and not just our Mom.

Mary Reeves is the Neighbors editor for the Star-News.