June 15, 2012

Not Buying Anything For Dad

My dad loved licorice allsorts, but would
have traded them to spend time with his kids.
Licorice Allsorts by Maureen Whittaker
I'm not buying anything for my dad for Father's Day this year. Of course, he passed away in 2001, but even had he survived his brain tumor, I still would not be shopping for a gift. That would only trivialize the importance of this 20th century invention.

Father's Day was first suggested in 1910 by Sonora Dodd, who along with her 5 siblings, was raised by a single father. Mother's Day had been recently started by Anna Jarvis in 1908, and Dodd thought that it was time for dads to get a bit of love.

The celebration didn't attract national attention until the 1930s when Dodd had the support of business interests that stood to gain from American's desire to make their  dads happy.

The New York Associated Menswear Retailers led the charge waving Donald Duck ties and packs of wool dress socks while establishing the Father's Day Council.

But the consumers-in-training of the day were already skeptical of commercial interests - they questioned the sincerity of the advertisers, and joked about the upstart counterpart to the already retail-friendly Mother's Day.

For decades dads day was delayed.

The US Congress voted down the idea of Father's Day several times. I guess they already had enough ties and coffee mugs. The day was not made official until 1972, six and a half decades after mom's got their day.

It turns out that the skeptics were right to be cautious, and by the 1980s the Father's Day Council was reporting that our dad's special day had become a 'Second Christmas' for the men's gift industry.

My dad never expected gifts for Father's Day. Still, he had his share of bottles of aftershave, cuff links, and licorice allsorts. But all he really wanted was to spend time with his kids.

For my dad's last Father's Day I took him to a local park on a windy day. I set him in a lawn chair, and put the string attached to a flying kite in his hands. His face beamed as he looked to the sky and felt the twitch and magic of flight through his fingers.

We talked and he told me that he hadn't flown a kite since he was a boy. To me he looked like a boy again, and we were boys together on that day, feeling the joy of a shared experience on a sunny day.

Your dad will understand if you are not buying anything for him this year, and he may even prefer that you don't. But do remember to spend some time with him, and let him know how much he means to you.

My dad would approve of that, and so would Sonora Dodd.


  1. I don't remember celebrating Father's Day when I was young. I do feel it is a bit of 'when did that happen,' day. i just don't remember is existing then suddenly it is everywhere

  2. AnonymousJune 15, 2012

    I made my Dad a tie in home ec class one year. The fabric looked as though it had fried eggs all over it. He actually wore it to work once.

    Although our relationship wasn't always easy, I'll always be grateful that he passed along his love of the outdoors and his curiosity about everything.

    Time spent together are treasured memories, no special holiday needed.

    1. My dad instilled a love of nature in me, and all my camping and hiking was a result of our early outings together.

      Spending quality time together is infinitly better than a contrived holiday and unnecessary gifts.

  3. One of the by products of these many "Hallmark holidays" is greeting cards. What do you do with them? My husband and I just went through two big bags full of cards that we received from family and friends over the years, or that we gave to each other. We probably had a couple hundred and we threw all but a few super special ones away. We also have a huge box of letters from my in-laws than span over 30 years. If you have any suggestions on what we can do with those, please let us know. Oh, and hubby doesn't want anything for Father's Day. Yay!

    1. Wow, that is a tough one. I also have a stash of letters from relatives, some of them quite significant.

      Cards are a little easier. I usually tear the cover off, and recycle the other half. I try to reuse envelopes.

      The picture side of the card I will use to send as a post card to someone. Some are nice enough to put in a frame to enjoy for a while.

      Congratulations on "The Great Card Purge". You are giving me courage. I really do want to ditch as much of my stuff as I can, including my bundle of old letters.

      I might try scanning whole letters, or perhaps cut sections of them out and scan those like a collage. It would be fun to make some sort of digital art with them.

      Or just read them one last time, and let them go to the great recycling depot in the sky.

      Happy no-gift Father's Day to hubby!

  4. Your posts about your dad are making me cry. Love 'em.

    Thanks for a wonderful blog.



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