Me and my dad go waaay back. Yup. I was that cute little baby strapped in the carrier strapped to her dad's chest while he was pushing a cart at the super market buying groceries. And even though I was still pretty much gaga-googoo-ing at that point, it is then and there that I'm sure that my love of food began, with my feet dangling over the produce.
What I know for sure (as Oprah would say) is that our dad's can talk to us 'til we are blue in the face, but it's mostly the unspoken values, practices, priorities, and passions that we pick up on and carry with us. So with that, in honor of Father's Day, I present to you in no particular order, the 5 things my dad has instilled in me without saying (too many) words.
Love of food and "kitchen sense." When I was a child we used to go to the grocery store every day after school. This is not an exaggeration. The clerks at the grocery store have watched me grow up. They have been abreast of every graduation from 5th grade to my Master's Degree and my settling in NYC. And although I would secretly hope that leaving the school campus he would just for once, go straight home, it is there in the grocery store, and when I watched him prepare our family meals at home, that I began learning about and loving food.
I learned everything from how to put a plate together for a balanced meal, to how to properly hold a knife and chop vegetables "like so." I gained an open mind when it came to trying new foods and recipes. And about those recipes... yeah, they're just a guide. Not really step by step instructions.
Growing up in Stanley's kitchen instilled "kitchen sense." It's like common sense, but usually involves a stove.
Everybody can dance. My Dad has some serious Dad Dances.
Some of my favorites include "The Air Guitar," "The Clap and Shake,"
"The Whistle and Snap," and of course "The Shoulder Bounce & Head
Bob" which is akin to the bank head bounce, but less syncopated. Still,
he is always grooving, and I have a profound appreciation for those who
are always grooving.
How to talk to people. My dad is a social guy and loves to talk to people (see: Grocery Store Clerks above). Whether it is just speaking to the neighbors to be courteous, how to approach someone to ask for something, or how to project in public, he's showed me that talking to people will get you far. He's a natural born salesman, and an awesome friend (see below) and it all begins with opening his mouth. He can't go anywhere in Baltimore City without running into someone he knows, and I think he likes it that way. Keeps him chatting.
Love of music. Music is life. I pretty much can not function without it. And that came from dear ol' dad (and mom). Music is the star of my parent's love story, and has continued to be in the foreground of our lives. I grew up walking through a hallway lined with vinyl. My dad can pin point the year an old r&b/soul song released based on where he was in his life. I remember listening to his voice on the radio with my mom way back in the day, as he hosted a Saturday morning show playing some of his favorite tunes. It is actually him, not me, that stays on top of all the new music. Yup, it was my dad who introduced me to some of my favorites like Jill Scott and Alicia Keys. He keeps me in the know. Thanks Dad.
How to be a friend. Over the years I have witnessed the way my dad cherishes his childhood friendships; how he has become family with the buddies of his college/young adult days. I have watched him make new friends well into his adult years with young people with whom he could part some wisdom, and older people who could drop some knowledge on him. He holds the hands of his friends while they are sick and dying. He does things for other friends, just because. And although I suspect it has not always been easy, he knows when to love his friends from a distance, and when to keep them close. He knows when to listen, when to give sage advice, and when to say "I'm sorry." He loves fiercely, is protective, loyal and supportive. How to be a friend is one of the most significant lessons that he has taught me without saying a word.