I am spending Father’s Day with my dad in L.A. I grew up in the City of Angels–all the angels seem to have flown away, by the way–but it doesn’t feel like home anymore except for when I am with my dad.
We started off our weekend (which began on Thursday) by having a long chat over a light dinner of a fritata. The conversation was a continuation of the one from our car ride as we drove from the Burbank airport to his home in Long Beach. This is very familiar territory for us as “every other weekend” my dad would pick me up from my mom’s house in the Valley and we’d drive the numerous freeways that define L.A., all the while talking about what we did since we last saw each other. Many times, there’d be music–for my dad, it was classical music, for me, it was the latest rock band on KROQ 106.7–and once I started working, there was asking of advice. When I would recount how I handled something, my dad would laugh and say, “You’re scaring me, Jess” because he would have handled it the exact same way. “Well, I am your daughter,” I’d say, which was a grown-up form of “Duh, Dad,” to which he would say, “Yes, it’s in your DNA.”
The “it” in my DNA is being organized, a leader, inclusive, focused, creative and the willingness to stand up for something when no one else will. I owe those characteristics to my “dear ol’ dad,” who took me to numerous museums, plays and other cultural events throughout our weekend together. He also spent as much time as I did on my science fair projects, making sure my three-fold board kicked ass. He is a designer after all, so there were no handwritten letters for us: The presentation was all typed, and we used those cool sticker letters in bold black to ask the question: Are Mice Adaptable to Change? I still have those letters, by the way.
The mice were adaptable, as once we changed the route to their food, the quickly learned the new way. Unlike the mice, my dad and I are often creatures of habit, especially when it comes to Disneyland and food. Disneyland is a tradition for us (see above photo), so when he said that we were going this weekend, I wasn’t as surprised as I used to be. But when I was younger, I would fall for his surprises all the time. During one of my visits near the holidays, he told me that we were going to see a four-hour opera in which the last hour was a drawn out death scene. When we arrived at the theater, everyone was dressed in their elegant dresses, but they were going to see the Nutcracker Ballet. I looked at my dad with big eyes and wished that we were going to see the Nutcracker, too, but since he had told me we were going to the opera, I believed him, thinking that there were two performances going on that night; and to be honest, I was just happy to spend time with him, four-hour opera an all. So when the curtain came up in the theater and I saw that indeed we were going to see The Nutcracker and not the opera, I squealed with excitement, and my dad gave me a grin that said, “Gotcha!”
Then there’s the food. When my dad picked me up at the airport, one of the first things he asked me (literally, right after looking at my luggage and saying, “That’s it?”) was, “Are you hungry?” I wasn’t but we had a laugh as his side of the family, the Cooks, are known for eating a meal and talking about what they’re going to eat at the next one. Today we’re going to have one of our famous cooking days, where we read recipes until we both go, “mmmmm,” and then we get busy making it in the kitchen. Of late, we always make a bread because my dad really enjoys making his own bread from scratch–um, he even grounds his own flour. Does your dad do that? I didn’t think so. 🙂 I have spent may hours cooking in the kitchen with my dad, to whom I owe my excellent knife skills and the ability to make something us as I go along.
This is the first Father’s Day we’ve spent alone together in over 20 years, and as he said this morning about this fact, “It’s nice.” Then he proceeds to laugh as he reads the comics, the first part of the paper that we would read together when I was a little girl. Every Sunday morning, I would run out the front door barefoot and pick up the Sunday L.A. Times, which weighed about as much as I did. Then I would jump on my parents bed (they were still married then), snuggle in between them, and read the Funnies with dad. In those days, Peanuts was always the first cartoon; and we were reading Baby Blues before the first kid was born. Yeah, we’re old school like that.
Perhaps that early exposure to the newspaper made me love it later in life. I went on to study journalism at university and have since worked at newspapers, magazines and recently online websites as first and foremost, a writer. My dad has always said that they named me as such, Jessica Dryden-Cook, because they wanted me to be a writer. Lucky for me that they didn’t want me to be a doctor! My dad says my name is my destiny, and in a way, it’s true: I do love to write. Thanks, dad, for part of my awesome name.
Happy Father’s Day–this post is for you.