Monday, October 26, 2009

All Season Pass - Part 1

It came to me today how much Dad looked forward to what each season had to offer. He would have loved a day like today and gone out to rake leaves and enjoy the sunshine. Age never slowed him down.

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Some people have season passes to baseball games. Others have them to football games. In our town, the YMCA has a big following. Music lovers buy them to the philharmonic and thespian wanna-be’s buy them for the playhouse. Everyone is enthusiastic about something, but it takes a real die-hard fan to be involved in something to the extent they purchase an all season pass.

My father was no less enthusiastic about the four seasons here in Pennsylvania. He always looked forward to the change each season brought with it. Dad remained a fan for life. He never even considered moving to any other state.

Dad always mentally prepared for the new season long before it arrived. New seasons meant new plans. He’d think about the projects he wanted to begin, set down tentative deadlines, write out what he needed to reach his goals, and talk it out with friends and family—either in passing or as his plans unfolded. Dad got on the ball and made things happen.

You could say he had a brand new season pass four times a year. He loved variety and looked forward to the promises spring, summer, fall and winter held for him.

Mom always said that she and my dad viewed our childhood as the best time of their lives. Having four different seasons to share with us kept it lively.

“These kids are gonna grow up before we know it,” dad would say, “Let’s enjoy ‘em while we can.”

And they did.

The fall season brought its own pleasures to my family. Each parent had their special role in our fun. Mom did the practical, everyday things with us. Although dad seemed very busy, he carved out time for us, too. Whether it was traditional or spur-of-the-moment activities, we looked forward to spending time with him.

When the leaves fell, Dad made a game out of raking them up with us, and he’d goad us into making a huge pile, then throw one of us in and the others would cover us up. Carving jack-o-lanterns was always his department, too. He’d set out newspaper on the front porch or the work bench and set up all our tools in a line—a special carving knife, a big serving spoon to remove the seeds and a charcoal pencil to make hideous faces for us to cut out. We loved doing this with him. But how we looked forward to the last big activity!

As Halloween approached, we would keep reminding him about his one-of-a-kind box man costumes.

“Dad, don’t forget! We need to get the boxes!”

He would nod and finally remember to stop off at Platz’s supermarket on the way home from work to pick up some food packaging boxes. The weekend before Halloween, he would go to work and custom-design his trademark “box man” costumes. These consisted of two gigantic boxes and one smaller one with the flaps wired together so when they were finished, they would consist of a body, neck and head - twice the size of one of us. After they were connected, Dad would shoe polish the boxes in white, then he’d use black or brown to create bizarre facial expressions for each box man. He used different color shoe polish for original but wacky clothing, too. These box men towered so high that he had to cut eye holes in the neck box in order for us to see when we walked.

it was a lot of work carrying those heavy boxes around trick-or-treating but Dad was so pleased with his creations that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now Mike, he opted out for the hobo Dad put together—light, easy and quick to move from house to house. Of course, he had a real stick with a handkerchief tied to it!

Dad made sure we participated in the Halloween costume "march" contest at the Girard fire hall as well. We loved that, too. Every year one of us won a prize for a box man costume. I still remember drinking the pungent, sweet apple cider and eating Mighty Fine doughnuts beteen competitions. When our age group was called to be judged, we walked in a circle with our oversized boxes as the judges conferred on the best. Soon, I (or one of us) would be pulled aside. We’d always win first or second prize! These were special occasions with my parents, especially since the brainchild costume was a creation Dad put together. Later, I’d see him chatting to the fireman with a big grin on his face. He'd give me the thumbs-up sign.

I also remember one special celebration in autumn one year. The year I turned eleven Dad put together a hayride for my birthday, which comes in October. I must have been in fourth or fifth grade then.

“Dad, that’ll be the greatest!”

I could hardly wait for members of my class to arrive after school that day.

He used his long boat trailer as the wagon and filled it with bales of hay. Then he hitched it up to his dump truck, which he would drive first through our town, and then down all the side roads and back home again. As it turned out, Dad took on a whopping two-hour ride, which is amazing if you knew how small Girard was back then. What I recall about that year was that he enjoyed taking us on that hayride as much as we enjoyed being part of it. We all itched from the hay, but had a great time. Afterwards, my classmates and I ate birthday cake. Mom had baked a cake iced with chocolate frosting and served it with vanilla ice cream. I felt like the most popular kid in my class for like a week after!

As we got older, Dad’s activities changed with us. He made roaring bonfires instead, and we invited our friends to those gatherings. My niece remembers one in which the fire got so high, her friends had to back up for safety! She still talks about that bonfire today.

Dad continued to give hayrides to my nieces, and then kids in town after we left home. He also kept raking leaves. In addition, he winterized his bushes and around Halloween, rigged up electric pumpkins on the front porch to welcome the trick-or-treaters. He would remove the storm window and hand out candy along with my mom. He’d always make faces and joke with the kids. My parents got so they kept a running tally of how many trick-or-treaters came each year.

In 1990, Dad started a new tradition when autumn arrived. He started working on his antique cars to make limousines and as usual, he drew everyone close to him into his new world of creating. The tree workers, laid off for the next six months, expanded their skills and learned how to work with motors, paint, grills, and everything else dad used to make his newest passion come alive.

Like I said, Dad had an all season pass for autumn every year. He never wasted it. Dad was a big fan of local life, and threw himself into an ever-changing array of activities that kept the season exciting to him.

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