Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day to Our Farm Boy

photo credit
In nineteenth century England the largest and grandest homes all possessed a "morning room." Many British novels from that era describe their heroines withdrawing to morning rooms to take their breakfast and write their letters. I have recently come to understand that many contemporary American architects have chosen to define the morning room as a cozy breakfast room that is furnished with a dining table as its central feature. I believe this new trend to be a huge mistake! Let's not replace the old-fashioned notion of thick rugs, soft chairs, a roaring fireplace, and a perfectly situated writing desk with a plain old dinette set. When you design your own morning room you can throw in a small cafe-sized table in the corner if you must, but in my mind the morning room should remain loyal to her letter-writing mistress who wants some quiet time to think and stare out the window at the sunshine.

Whenever I lie in bed at night and allow my thoughts to meander to a comfortable, happy, blissfully imaginary place it is always in a morning room. I sit at my intricately carved desk and stare out my imaginary wide windows at my English gardens, with a pen in one hand and my hot chocolate steaming in a delicate ceramic teacup a few inches away. I have a theory that the best way to fall asleep at night and rocket yourself into a peaceful dreamland is by using your imagination. I think the space in your brain where dreams take place must be situated right next to the imagination, allowing one to soak into the other as easily as if skipping across a stone bridge from one meadow to the next. It really works! When you get in bed tonight imagine your perfect day, your perfect house, your perfect vacation, or in my case your perfect morning room. If you find yourself making actual plans, thinking about things that you plan to do within the immediate future it won't work. Then your brain starts making lists and composing costs, logistics, and cause and effect consequences. There are no flower field meadows waiting for you at the end of that path. Instead, just let your imaginings wander far away from your usual grind. Like to nineteenth century England, for example.

One of the reasons I love my imaginary morning room is because I love hand-written letters. I do. I love receiving them, I love buying pretty cards, and I love writing them (although admittedly it's hard to forego email in favor of a pen these days). When my children are a little older and my mornings aren't so crammed with diaper changing and spilled Cheerios I plan to start each day in my morning room. I can't think of anything better than sitting in my robe reading my scriptures and then writing as the sun rises higher in the sky.

This week I've been thinking about the best way to observe Father's Day. We're planning on the usual train of homemade cards, yummy food, and a long Sunday afternoon nap for the dad of the house, but what else? How do you say, I love you and none of this would work without you in a way that sounds fresh from what was said a few days earlier? How do I thank my father and step-father for what they've brought to my life? They're getting old, so haven't we covered this territory before? Is it the repetition of Happy Father's Day sentiments that is significant, or is something else needed. A recognition of this is what you have brought to my life this year?

I took an afternoon nap today and drifted to sleep pondering the question of Father's Day. When I opened my eyes I knew what I wanted to do. It seems that so many of my clear sighted, decisive thoughts come right as I'm waking up. Everyone who knows Jeremy knows what a straight-forward, good person he is. "You got a good one," my older sister said to me as she watched Jeremy organize our travel arrangements on the way home from our cruise a few weeks ago. She was right, I got a good one. But I wonder if that's one of those certainties that people like me think but forget to express? And so I came straight down to the computer to begin my Father's Day letter to my husband:

Dear Jeremy,

I'm sitting here in my morning room and the only person I feel like writing to is you. It's Father's Day this week, and how else can I express my love and admiration except by writing. We've all been given a lump of clay with which to express ourselves, and this happens to be my lump. However lopsided, however awkward or trite, expressing ourselves naturally is the only chance we have of really being heard when what we're trying to say goes so deep and stretches so far beyond what other people can see.

Since it is Father's Day I want to let you know that I see how you are trying to use your allotment of clay for the benefit of our family and everyone you meet. There isn't an English garden outside our window, but there is a small garden that you've been coaxing along for weeks and weeks. The neighbors walk by and stop to inspect your basil and tomato plants, and I want to tell them all about how you're just one of those people who can nudge living things to grow taller. You let our girls pick out their own flowers this year, and so among your precious vegetables are growing the garish purple and pink blossoms that so appealed to our little girls. I love how you weed and water them just as tenderly as your vegetables.

Last night one of our friends watched you come in from work and begin switching the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. "Do you ever just sit down and relax?" he asked. I woke up this morning thinking about that question. I don't believe you do relax very often. The problem is that you are a noticer of other people's feelings, and girls have a lot of those. And there are a lot of girls in this family. When the girls are cold you get up and close the windows. When they need attention you sit down to play "Old Maid" with them. When they are scared at bedtime you lie next to them and tell them stories and sing softly until they fall asleep. Sometimes it is probably not a big stretch for you to imagine how poor Wesley felt as a farm boy working for Buttercup in "The Princess Bride." You love us and serve us so willingly and tirelessly.

I was recently joking with some friends about the true way to a woman's heart. It was suggested that a way to a woman's heart is by cleaning toilets, or being tender with her children, or by treating her with consideration. The thing about you, Jeremy, is that you've never had to strategize in that department. I think a lot of men, and a lot of women for that matter, have to remember to continually secure their spouse's heart and nurture their respect and affection. But with you it's always felt like an uncontrived process. You just see the need and do your best to fill it. And that is the secret, I believe. The way to a woman's heart is by seeing her need and doing your best to fill it.

In close I just want to tell you that you have been the bearer of happiness in my life and in the lives of our girls. You are a happy person. You are a happy husband and father. Through the thick and thin of mono, the chaos of ordinary life, and those exquisite, fleeting moments when everything felt perfect you have been there this year. For me and for our girls. We love you, farm boy, and wish you a relaxing Father's Day!

Much Love, 


1 comment:

  1. Such a beautiful letter Lauren. A sweet tribute - a treasure.


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