June 20, 2010
My father disdained what he called “Hallmark Holidays,” but today, thirty years after his death, I’ve been thinking that he was wrong. On this damp, gray day there is a melancholy happiness in eating his favorite foods and thinking about how much I still miss him.
Dad loathed American breakfasts. “How can you eat that?” he’d ask, looking miserable as Mom and I ate bowls of fruit and cereal, “it’s not real food.” Mom’s concession to Dad’s breakfast obsession was to get up early every morning and trudge to the bakery around the corner for fresh rolls. These she set out with plates of cheese (always the pungent Leiderkranz, sometimes the less objectionable Emmenthaler), sliced ham, salamis, fresh butter and good jam.
“But where’s the herring?” Dad asked every morning. Mom never deigned to answer.
During their courtship she had discovered how much he loved herring and always had some on hand when he came to visit. “Only after we were married did she inform me that she could not stand the stuff,” he said. Then he would shake his head sadly and say, “That’s the price of marriage. You have to give up the things you love best. Now I only get herring on my birthday.”
It’s not Dad’s birthday. But wherever he is, I hope he’s eating herring.
In his honor, I’m doing that right now.
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