Being a father’s always been a challenge. Some of us spend a lot of time out of the house, so we have to wear the name tag and introduce ourselves on a regular basis. But I don’t think men ever had to compete for kid’s attention the way we do today. When I come home and say, ‘let’s go play’, I hear ‘I’m busy’. What ever happened to kids being bored stiff and wishing somebody’d want to go do something?
The problem, it turns out, is we’re now sharing the house. With a whole crowd of visiting families. Cosby started it. Now we’ve also got Homer and Bernie Mack, George Lopez, Billy Ray Cyrus, Peter from Family Guy, and the list just goes on. And all day long there’s this stream of tweeters and facebooking fans, inhabitants of farmville, and busloads of characters from gameland all tramping through. Getting elbowed aside by Shrek and the whole Hollywood universe. It’s a miracle to get a word in edgewise.
My brood was becoming a bit like snow leopards, rumored to exist but only occasionally spotted. They still dished out hugs and smiles when they saw me, but sightings were rare. And, it occurred to me, if I wanted to protect them, I was only one voice in a very big and noisy wilderness. When it came to having an influence on what they think, and how they saw things, some food corporations managed to get in more messages a day than I did.
I decided it was time to compete. Time to tag and track. Rebuild the pride.
And the one guaranteed place I knew I could catch them was where they came to feed. The kitchen.
The question was, what to use for bait? Candy, chips, fast food they could find anywhere, and shouldn’t. I needed something they’d come out of hiding for, and come back for, and keep them purring while we spent time getting comfortable together.
It didn’t come to me til I was out in the garage one afternoon, feeling low. I came across a bread machine, still boxed. I couldn’t remember where it came from. But, for some reason, I decided to give it a go. Instructions didn’t look hard at all. It looked like something I could do.
I can tell you, if you haven’t experienced it yourself in a while, there’s nothing quite like the warm, wafting scent of fresh baking bread in the nostrils to grab attention. It’s a primal thing. A raise-the-head-up and wonder where that smell’s coming from kind of thing. And no loaf in a wrapper from the chain store has it.
I lit the thing up one evening after dinner and in an hour had a crowd standing around waiting for a slice.
In the end, I’m not sure what the best thing about it was. Everybody chatting around the warm oven like long-lost relatives around a campfire. Mouth watering homemade bread. Dad holding court and doling out slices for toast and jam. Or, over the years we’ve been doing it since, the things we’ve learned about each other, and the memories we’ve made. With something truly special, they can’t get anywhere else.
I do know this. In my family, we have a tradition. One that’s stood through good times and teary nights. A simple loaf and a little time in the kitchen. And Dad, a part of it.