HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: (You can see why we moved chat day this week--what wonderfulvisitors we've had!)
So remember that show--Father Knows Best?
When I was a kid, we lived in rural Indiana with kind of a big yard. My step-father had a riding mower, (which we lusted to drive but were not allowed to. Well, we were allowed, until I cut the front lawn into the pattern of the United States. Which I thought was cool, but my step-dad did not. But that's another story.)
We called him "Boo," because apparently when we met him, he said Boo. I was only told this, I don't really remember it.
Anyway, before he went out to mow the lawn, my sister and I were instructed to pick up all the sticks in the front yard, so they wouldn't get caught in the blades of the mower. (Or something.)
I thought that was ridiculous, and "picking up sticks" was the WORST possible chore. You had to bend over, pick up dirty sticks, lug them around, and when you were done, so what? Besides, more sticks would just fall.
But I, smart little kid, figured out how to handle it. Negotiation. I said to Boo: "How big does the stick have to be before we have to pick it up?"
Boo paused, thought about it. (He was a corporate lawyer). And finally he said, "Well, good question. If you have a concern that you might not need to pick up a stick, just bring it to me, and I'll look at it and tell you if it needs to be picked up."
I remember this very clearly. HAH! I thought. I WIN! SO I'd bring him sticks, and he'd say, yes yes yes no no. And I thought I was SO clever.
Many years later, and I remember this just as clearly, I was working in Washington DC, walking down the street, thinking about this. I stopped in my tracks. WAITAMINIT! I thought. Boo tricked me!
It had only taken me 18 years to figure it out.
It was so sweet, reading all the memories Rosemary elicited about our mothers. And interesting, too, to think how different the memories of what our fathers taught us would be.
Besides teaching me that it was okay to trick a kid--not really, Boo--my step-father was incredibly critical about how I looked. If he was unhappy with say, my skirt length, he'd say "What do you represent?"
If he was unhappy in general with what we were doing, he'd start counting. "One, two...." We somehow knew that we did NOT want him to get to "Three." In fact, we have no idea what would have happened, because he NEVER got to three.
He taught me: "Never order the Chef's surprise, because you aren't gonna like the surprise." And "You don't need to know everything--you just need to know where to find it."
What did you learn from your dad? One, two...
JAN BROGAN - When I was a teenager, especially my early teens, I was a parent's worst nightmare. Also a pathological liar. One New Years Eve when I was about fifteen, I was going to a party at a motel where about twenty-five of us rented two rooms and were spending the night. When I told my mother that was going to spend the night at "Patty's House," she said, "Oh yeah? Patty's house? Are you sure that's where you are going?" My father cut in and said, "If Janice said that's where she's going, that's where she is going. She wouldn't lie."
What I learned from that was that my father's believing in me was a far more effective tool than my mother's challenging me. Not that it stopped me from going to the new year's even party where I was lucky I wasn't the next Karen Anne Quinlan, but it did make me want to be the kind of person my father could believe in. Shortly after this, I cleaned up my act. Upgraded my friends and straightened out.
HALLIE EPHRON: My version of Jan's ploy was to tell my parents I was going to a "Young Democrat's Meeting" - they were old lefties so they were happy I was getting involved politically. They also didn't pay very close attention. I left the house put on makeup, rolled up my skirt, and...
What I was doing was meeting my boyfriend who was picking me up a few blocks away on his motorcycle which I was forbidden to ride. Those were the days before helmets. Definitely on the way to being Karen Anne.
My dad. He was complicated and told the same stories over and over and over again. If you were hearing them for the first time, they were great. What I learned from him? That the best gift you can give your kids is to love them unconditionally.
RHYS BOWEN: If my brother and I were fighting my father would say, "Don't make me take this belt off.' It was a big leather belt and we stopped instantly although he never once hit us during my whole childhood. I used to think he was horribly strict. Now I see how much he cared. He'd say, "What time will the party be over?" I'd say "eleven." He'd say I'll be outside at ten forty five. How embarrassing to have my father come for me! No chance for a boy to say goodnight even. He was also strict about what I wore. I'd come down, thinking I looked so grown up and he'd say, "Were you planning to actually go out in that?" and I'd go back upstairs and take off half the make-up and the fishnet stockings.
But he was also the one who sensed my hearts desires. One Christmas my present from my parents was my fare to Germany to be part of a friend's wedding. But it was also the year transistor radios made their appearance in England. I really wanted one, but didn't ask because a ticket to Europe was a big present. On Christmas morning I found a battery in my stocking. What on earth did I need a battery for? Then a warm feeling crept all over me... it couldn't be, could it? At the bottom of the stocking was my transistor radio. I still get a warm glow thinking about that.
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh boy, my sweet dad just died last week so this comes at a time that I've been thinking of him a lot.
HANK: AH, Lucy...he must have been so proud of you! And you are a wonderful daughter..
LUCY BURDETTE: He LOVED having kids--never got the idea that we were a burden--we MADE his life. That sure sends a great message. He told us things by setting an example--work like a dog and then have as much fun with your family and friends as you can possibly cram in. And don't ever be afraid to speak or sing in public, even if you're short in the talent department. (I sang a barbershop tune at his memorial service with one of my sister's friends to illustrate this point!) Even though he was a shadow of his quirky, lively, cheerful self at the end, I will miss him dearly.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, my, just thinking about my dad makes me teary. I had all the growing up power struggles with my mom, but my dad--the worst thing I could ever imagine was to disappoint him. Isn't it funny how dads can do that to you? I only learned when I was grown up that he'd suffered from chronic and sometime debilitating depression for years. Maybe as a way of compensating, he was the most positive person I think I've ever known. He always thought the best of people, and his hero was Dale Carnegie, his favorite book How to Make Friends and Influence People. His favorite saying was, "Always have a smile in your voice." And he loved to sing.
Lucy, my heart goes out to you.
Rhys, I wish you had a picture of you in those fishnet stockings!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, Rhys in fishnets. There's a great image! Another of Boo's sayings--when we went on a family trip, we'd pull out of the driveway in the station wagon, and before we'd gone half a block, he'd say "How do you like it so far?" And we'd all burst out laughing..
So how about you, Reds? What did your father always tell you?