“I assumed you were going to get him a sombrero,” she said from her supine position. “Ya know, to match that Latin scarf thingy you gave your mom on Mother’s Day. You saved that receipt, I hope.”
“Yes.” My mom had exchanged her gift for a trash can that had wheels.
“I got my dad a bottle of Glenfiddich single malt whisky,” Kit continued. “My mother suggested it.”
I was impressed with my thirteen-year-old pal who knew her malts. “I couldn’t buy my dad alcohol,” I said glumly, as I heard my mom’s voice in my head. Why don’t I just call the Betty Ford Center and reserve you a room? “It’s back to Ross Dress for Less for me. I’ve only got about three bucks to spend.” I’d blown my savings on a Genesis album.
“I don’t hear anything ticking,” he said.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, just open it, will you. I want to order.” My mother did not enjoy suspense.
So Dad complied, taking great care, until eventually he pulled out a white coffee mug with the words Keep on Truckin’ stamped across it.
“Really, Buddy?” My mother glanced at the mug and quickly began placing her napkin on her lap. “You didn’t buy that at an actual truck stop, I hope.”
“Thanks, son,” my dad said. “It’s great.” Now he began holding it up to the light as if it were Waterford crystal.
“Good grief.” My mother slammed her palm into her forehead. “Valerie, for heaven’s sake, give your Dad his gift before I go insane.”
“Okay. Daddy, I decided to write you a poem.” I watched him lean back in his chair in awe over my creativity (but definitely not my extravagance). “Can I read it to you?”
“May I read it,” my mother wearily corrected me. She lives in formal-grammar land.
I held up the poem I’d taken from my purse (and intended to get framed very soon) and began. “Dad, this is my day to thank you for the following: teaching me to skate—”
“You call that skating?” (from Buddy)
I continued. “Taking me to see Young Frankenstein—”
“What? Why didn’t I know that?” my mother interrupted, looking up from her menu.
Again, I continued. “Explaining to me how football works (although I’m still not sure I get it).”
“Man.” Buddy rolled his eyes. “It’s got like three rules; what’s not to get?”
I continued yet again. “Playing with me and my Easy-Bake Oven for hours on end—”
“Isn’t it about time you learned how to use a real oven?” (Buddy again)
“Obviously, I meant when I was younger.”
“Valerie, we were all much younger when you started this poem,” my mother said. “Please get on with it. The eggs Florentine are always good here.”
I continued. “For all the times you helped me with my homework, even though you were so tired when you got home from work—”
“How come I didn’t get to see Young Frankenstein?” I knew Buddy wouldn’t let that one go.
“You were at a hockey game. Happy now? Shall I continue?”
“Please do,” my dad said, but I could see that even he was eyeing the menu.
“And most of all, for giving me permission to go to Tish’s party last week, even though there were no adults there, but plenty of boys, and I drank six wine spritzers.” I stopped and looked at my audience. My parents were now both deep into their menus, and Buddy seemed to be trying to mold his napkin into something obscene. “Did you hear me?” I asked.
Dad closed his menu. “Yes, honey, you were the only girl at an all-night party at a frat house in Istanbul and you drank twelve wine spritzers. Hope you didn’t drive home. How about you read the poem to me later, when we’re not surrounded by these philistines?”
“What’s Palestine got to do with it?” Buddy had stopped re-creating his napkin and now tucked it into his shirt front like he was an eighty-year-old man.
Without even looking up, my mother whipped it from his shirt and dropped it on his lap.
“Okay, Dad, I’ll read it later. But can I just read the—”
“May I read,” my mother interrupted again.
I continued. “Daddy, you are the best father in the world, and I’m the luckiest daughter.”
“I thought a poem was supposed to rhyme,” Buddy said.
“That’s why you’re a Palestinian.” I handed the poem to my dad and watched the slow smile form on his face as he read my words silently. I made a mental check mark: job well done. Perfect gift. And certainly better than a coffee mug.