Family, Disney and stick-shift


With Father’s Day this weekend I wanted to share the inspiration and lessons learned from my Dad.

Family comes first

My dad grew up in Yonkers, N.Y. in a basement apartment with three older brothers, one sister and immigrant parents. Crowded to say the least. Perhaps living in such close proximity to one another was the reason that, as my father grew up and became a dad, we were taught that family comes first.

I can remember car trips to visit uncles in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Our station wagon was packed with family. My brother and I and assorted cousins, my Grandmother, and usually my aunt. We always stopped along the way at some road-side attraction. My father loved to explore and travel. Before the age of five I had been in 48 contiguous states and Alaska.

When we weren’t traveling, family came to stay with us. There was never a question about going to a hotel. People slept in every room and kids on the floor. The TV had seven stations. The internet was a few decades away. The phone was attached to the wall and board games were our entertainment. Those were the best memories of my life!

We’re going to Disney World!

In 1971 I was four years old and the happiest place on earth opened their gates! My dad fell in love with the ideology: magical and happiness. And I quickly followed in this belief. Every other year we would take a trip to Disney World. Usually by car, and one time by train.  After the first couple of years the crowds got bigger and lines got longer under the hot Summer sun in Florida. That’s when my parents decided to pull us out of school for one week every October for the Disney trip. No lines, no crowds, no unbearable heat! While other parents poo-pooed the idea of taking us out of school, don’t poo-poo it until you do it. Best memories of my life!

Learning to drive a stick-shift was required

When it was time for me to learn how to drive my dad had one requirement: you must learn on a stick shift. I chug-chugged an old pick-up truck up and down Boston Post Road. Stalled a few times and learned the emergency brake is my best friend when stopping while going uphill. Now this was driving. His reasoning was that if I could drive a stick-shift then I could drive anything. Cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles. Anything.

I was already familiar with a clutch from riding our mini-bike around the backyard and the ATV’s in upstate New York. It was second-nature to then drive a car with a clutch and gears.  And yes, I have driven trucks and tractors and inherited my dad’s love of motorcycles. His was originally an Indian, and he looked like a Norwegian James Dean sitting on his bike with t-shirt sleeves rolled up and blue jeans.

When I bought my Harley Davidson back in 2003 the first place I went was a mile away from my home to show my dad.  I wanted him to know his grown daughter had followed very closely in his adventuresome footsteps, and I thanked him for making me learn how to drive a stick-shift. As soon as I got off the bike, he got on. I snapped a picture of him sitting on my HD with the biggest grin. That grin said more than words could ever say. Best memory of my life, and my dad.

Happy Father’s Day and don’t forget to have fun with your kids!


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