Today is my dad's birthday.
When we were little, my parents decided to help us each create a special tradition that we would do together each year on our birthday. We went to the beach for my birthday in July, built a snowman for Shawni's birthday in January, went bowling for Noah's November birthday. You get the idea. Some traditions "stuck" more than others. My dad's birthday tradition was one that really stuck and has ended up helping us feel bonded to each other as it's been celebrated by each of us wherever we've each been throughout the world every October 28th for well over 60 years now.
My dad's birthday tradition is to jump in the leaves. For as long as I can remember, we've hiked into the mountains or found a park with lots of fallen leaves, raked then up, play in them, jump in big piles of them, stuff them down each other's shirts, jump out of trees into them, that sort of thing. This tradition is perfect for my dad since he absolutely adores fall and has taught all of us to be somewhat obsessed with fall folliage and pumpkins and the smell and crunch of fallen leaves and the crispness in the air and everything else about fall.
I think this might have been the first year we made fall leaves a focus of my dad's birthday. This is Josh, Dad, me, Shawni, baby Saydi and Mom up the canyon near Salt Lake City.
When we moved to England for three years, we found great leaves to jump in on Box Hill (looks like I was being sort of bratty here. Sorry dad. Love Josh's coat and my dad's Sherlock Holmes hat...)
Noah, Saydi, Shawni and Talmadge in the leaves up the canyon back in Utah.
Jumping in the leaves at Liberty Park in Salt Lake (Shawni, Josh, Talmadge, me randomly in a pioneer hat, Jonah and Saydi
Me, a random neighbor?, Shawni, Saydi, Jonah and Josh (back to the camera) in the backyard of our house in Virginia (Dad's beloved hammock in the background)
Back in Utah my 7th grade year, enjoying Dad's birthday up the canyon
|left side from back: mom, Shawni, me, Talmadge|
right side from back: Noah, Dad, Saydi, Jonah, Josh
This is the photo my mom sent me of leaf-jumping that happened one year after Shawni, Saydi and I had left home (Josh, Dad, Jonah, Charity, Noah, Eli - Josh must have come home from BYU for dad's birthday and Tal was gone somewhere...)
One year, when I was in Bulgaria on a mission, Shawni was in Romania on a mission and Josh was in England on a mission, my dad was excited open the birthday cards we each sent to him. He found that each card contained pressed autumn leaves and a story about where and how we had each jumped in the leaves to honor his birthday tradition. We'd each independently thought of sending leaves in a card to Dad for his birthday. My mom framed some of the leaves we sent from across the world:
And there was the year Shawni and I got home from our missions and were able to join in the leaf jumping with dad again after many years of being away from home (even my dad's mom, Grandma Ruthie, joined in - but Josh was still on his mission). Clockwise from Grandma: me, Eli, Charity, Shawni, dad in the middle, Noah, Tal, Saydi
And now my kids get to jump in the leaves with me and my dad on his birthday since we live close to them.
And the kids will give Grandfather the very special leaf creations and cards that they've lovingly made for him.
Somehow the beauty of fall and the raking of leaves help all 42 member of my parents' family feel a special bond to each other and to my dear dad wherever we are around the word on October 28th each year. I dearly hope the there will be some traditions that really stick for my own kids and that there will be special little quirky traditions that they'll want to share long into the future, traditions that will remind them of their love for each other and of the family culture and sense of belonging that they grew up with.
Here are a few of the quotes my dad had us memorize as kids that I still think of all the time and that I can type out off the top of my head:
"See how the masses of men worry themselves into nameless graves while here and there, a great unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality."
"True joy comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to think freely, to enjoy simple, to risk life, to be needed."
"Good is the enemy of best."
"You wouldn't worry so much about what other people thought of you if you realized how seldom they did."
"Some people look at things that are and ask 'why?' I dream of things that never were and ask, 'why not?'"
Cast aside the old phrase "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well" and replace it with "If a thing is just barely worth doing, then just barely do it."
"We don't own anything. We are mere stewards. An attitude of stewardship creates gratitude and generosity while an attitude of ownership can make us selfish or prideful."
"Live with an attitude of serendipity. Serendipity means 'when, through sagacity and awareness, we see and act upon something better than that which we were originally seeking.'" (My name comes from the word "serendipity," my parents' favorite word at the time I was born.)
And I'll end with a few shots of my dad that capture a bit of the amazing dad and grandfather he is:
Josh made dad some cucumber glasses and he wore them with pride.
Here we are with Dad one birthday (Saydi, Josh, Jonah on the ground, Dad, Talmadge, me, our dog Canie, Shawni). Can you see the mutual adoration going on?
My kids similarly think their beloved Grandfather is about the coolest and most fun guy in the whole world and I'm so grateful we live near my parents now and relationships have been able to deepen. Here the kids are with Grandfather last weekend. Again, the great relationships are pretty apparent in the photos.
Happy birthday to the best dad ever!