One of my favorite memories from my childhood is sitting on my Dad’s shoulders as we would ride through wave after wave at the beach. I was terrified of water I couldn’t see through (still am), and I was convinced the ocean floor was covered with hundreds of hungry crabs waiting to nibble my toes. So my Dad would lift me up on his shoulders and wade into the waves, high enough that we could “jump” with each wave and just make it over them. I would scream with delight and felt, in those moments, like my Dad was the strongest, coolest person alive (he still is). So it’s with that in mind that we celebrate Father’s Day with a look back at some of our favorite bloggers’, authors’ and artists’ memories of their fathers. From touching moments over a breakfast table to some hilarious (and gnarly) episodes involving sick children, to deep and meaningful reflections about difficult relationships, these stories and memories are so genuine and open.
Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to share such personal moments with us here today: Victoria Smith, Will Taylor, Joanna Goddard, Matt Armendariz, Lisa Congdon, Julia Rothman, Jaime Derringer, Sara Jensen, Jan, Nikole Herriott, Cassandra LaValle, Michelle Adams, Amy Azzarito, Amy Merrick, Max Tielman. xo, grace
*Photo above: Despite the fact that I look like a little boy, that is actually me with my Dad and our first dog, Duffy.
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My dad is absolutely my best friend, and I’d be lost without him. We make each other laugh until we cry, and he’s my go-to for advice on everything from breakups to new business ideas. We’ve always introduced each other to new music (my first concert with him was Ray Charles in fourth grade!), and we’ve seen every show from Eric Clapton to Paul McCartney to little undiscovered bands all over the country. I’m thrilled to be back in Michigan to spend more time with him and the rest of my family.
“When we were kids, my brother and I had to weed the rows of the big garden before we’d be allowed to tend to our own. I had to feed the horses before school and muck the stalls before going for a ride. We had to collect the eggs when we got home from school and stack the wood before dinner. I complained about all of this as a kid, at the time not understanding my dad’s intention in giving us SO many chores. I see now that my dad was teaching my brother and I the value in a hard day’s work, the value in doing a job well from start to finish, the value in working through the mundane things to get to the good things. And in doing so, my dad taught me to appreciate the small things just as much.”
“My favorite memory of my dad is when I was a little girl we played a game called ‘plant college.’ He would take me around the house as he tended to all of his many houseplants and teach me about watering and let me take off all of the dead leaves. We would mix powdered fertilizer and rotate the plants so they would get sunlight evenly. It’s no wonder I grew up to be a floral designer, he fostered my love of nature right from the start.”
“Growing up, the San Fernando Valley summers were always scorching hot, so we’d escape to the beach or an afternoon swim in a friend’s pool. My dad used to glide around the pool, with me on his back, arms around his shoulders. I can still see and feel his suntanned and freckled shoulders, but most of all it’s the smell of Coppertone I remember. Now, whenever I smell that suntan lotion I have these deep-sense memories of my dad and those swims. It’s one of my favorite smells for that reason.”
-Victoria Smith of SFGirlbyBay
“It’s taken me my entire life to to grasp just how lucky I am to have my father. Not a day has gone by that he hasn’t loved and accepted me for who I am (I am a gay man, so this bears repeating!), but more importantly, he has shown me that being kind, jovial and gentle is exactly what this world needs. He is the definition of sweetness, and to see how he treats and adores my mother after 53 years of marriage is nothing short of beautiful. I am absolutely crazy about that man!!!”
-Photographer Matt Armendariz
-Artist and Author Lisa Congdon
“Sadly, my father left home without warning four days after my eleventh birthday, and while the times that followed were all too often indescribably difficult, I still hold happy memories of our time together before that day. For me, it’s the small, everyday things he would do, probably without even realizing, that showed his love and care for his family. I loved how he perched on the side of my bed and chatted to me as I fell asleep, no matter how long his day. He also used to lay the breakfast table in our kitchen every night before going to bed, and it was oddly comforting coming downstairs to the same scene each morning. Once, when I was around seven or eight, we were coming back from a family holiday on a ferry across the English Channel from France. The crossing was meant to take two hours but ended up taking ten because of bad weather. We both felt so unwell that we sat out on the deck looking at the horizon together for eight hours. Despite sharing few words, I won’t ever forget how safe and comforted I felt sharing that moment with him, no matter how unpleasant the experience on the ferry felt at the time. While I find it hard to love the man he is today, I fondly remember loving the man he was then.”
-Will Taylor of Bright Bazaar
“Every summer, my dad would take us on a camping trip, which he nicknamed ‘The Great Adventure.’ One summer, when I was in tenth grade, he even gave us T-shirts that said ‘G.A.’ in bright pink puffy paint. I was mortified when we first set off on the trip, but by the end—after swimming in lakes, going on hikes, sleeping under the stars and seeing a baby bear in Yellowstone—I cherished my well-worn T-shirt. He taught us how to make things fun and not take life too seriously.”
-Joanna Goddard or Cup of Jo
“As one of four children, my favorite times with my Dad were when I could get him one-on-one. I loved our solo time when I could talk and talk and talk away from the prying little ears of my younger siblings. Usually this moment in the center of his attention would happen at night when it was time for bed. My Dad would come in to say goodnight and I always had just one more thing to say; just one more story to tell. But the best moments were birthdays. Around our birthdays, my sisters and I got to go on a date with Dad. Just one-on-one with Dad at the location of your choice. My little sisters choose Chuck E. Cheese or a movie. And I (nerd alert) picked a traveling production of Evita or a Mozart concerto. My Dad would come home from work with a corsage and we’d take a photo standing in front of the fireplace, exactly where I would pose for prom photos a few years later. We’d go to dinner and then the play or the concert. Years later, my Dad admitted his sacrifice – he had to fight to stay awake during those performances that so dazzled me. It was important to him that we know what to expect from a romantic partner. How we should be treated on a date. The lesson that I learned was how important the gift of time is – how those who love us will want to spend time with us, even if the activity isn’t their first choice. Having the full, undivided attention from my Dad was better than a thousand Barbie dolls. And to this day, my favorite gifts to give and receive are those that involve an experience. Time with the ones I love and who love me.”
-Amy Azzarito of Design*Sponge
“There are so many things I admire about my father: how he knows how to fix anything (‘look, I got that old camera to work again!’), that people love to talk to him (I walk away for a minute in the deli and he’s laughing with the cashier like old friends), that he’s always interested in learning (he’s currently obsessed with bird watching), and that he was such a devoted teacher to so many disadvantaged kids for his entire career (he had a bet with his students that if anyone got 100% on the difficult Earth Science Regents test, he would shave off his beard. Then one time it happened, and he was beardless for the first time in decades). He’s been encouraging and supportive of everything I do, and he is the first person I want to impress. I am secretly really happy that he brags about my newest project to his friends and neighbors even though I get really embarrassed and scold him.”
-Illustrator and Author Julia Rothman
“My dad is a pretty awesome guy. He’s respectful and a great husband and father, and a hard worker (I can thank him for my entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic). And it doesn’t hurt that he’s handy, too. I ended up marrying a guy just like him, and for that, I’m forever grateful.”
-Jaime Derringer of Design Milk
“Our parents, for better or for worse, really make us who we are as people—and we are often more like them than we’d care to admit. My father, in particular, seems to have passed on some of my best (and occasionally most irritating) personality traits. A ceaselessly passionate individual (sometimes to the point of insanity), my father’s go-for-broke drive lent itself to numerous projects—both personal and professional. He is a diehard advocate for the arts and historic preservation and much of my youth was spent trailing him to fundraisers, public meetings, political events and rallies. Although this never-ending passion was sometimes a little bit (okay, a LOT a bit) overwhelming for a small child, I don’t think I would have it any other way—it has truly shaped me into the passionate, crazy person who I am today, something for which I am endlessly thankful.”
-Max Tielman of Design*Sponge
“As a teenager that was also adopted by my dad (my sister was biologically his) I felt a lot of anger. And no matter what I said at the height of my teenage terror years or if I yelled that I didn’t want him as my dad, he would just tell me that he loved me as much as he loved my sister and then he would almost always say ‘I don’t care if you don’t want me, I’m yours.’
I also have a really intense memory of feeling sick to my stomach while we were all out as a family at a huge holiday party. My dad took me home and he laid in the bottom bunk while I laid on the top bunk. I remember saying ‘I really feel funny…’ And just as he popped his head out from the bottom bunk I leaned over and just barfed all over his face. And without skipping a beat he helped me down from the bed, walked me to the bathroom and took care of me. I know it’s totally gross, but the tenderness he showed when we were sick as kids was so sweet and comforting.”
-Sara Jensen, Creative Director for Real Genevieve
“A funny thing our Dad used to say to us when he would burn our toast for breakfast (which seemed to be often)… he would tell us it was good for us and that it would put hair on our chest (good for boys perhaps, not so much for girls).”
-Jan Halverson of Poppytalk
“Growing up, I always thought my dad was the coolest. (You should see photos of him from the 70s. He was a babe.) I always wanted to be like him in every way. He was a great singer, so I took singing lessons. He fixed things around the house, so I demanded to learn how to use all the tools in his toolbox. He was an amazing chef, and as I watched him cook in our little kitchen I took mental recipe notes on every dish he created. But it wasn’t until later in life that I learned how cool my dad really was… and how much I would turn out to be even more like him.
When he moved to LA he had dreams of being an actor, singer, you name it. Any impossible career path he could follow. But when he married my mom, all that changed. He changed HIS dreams so that we could all have ours. He was working as a waiter at the time (as all starving artists do in LA) and decided to take the restaurant career path. In 1998, the year I graduated high school, I watched my dad open his first restaurant. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my dad was teaching me the greatest lesson of all – how to be an entrepreneur.
He may not be the most business savvy, and he may not ever have a five-star kitchen (heck, some months we’re happy just to turn a profit), but my dad showed me how to make the leap into the scary world of being your own boss. How to take on challenges, build relationships, and to ‘just keep swimming’ even when you’re drowning in paperwork, emails, or all those lovely things that come along with being a business owner. I’m so proud of the new dreams he built, sharing them with our family along the way – dreams we are all still building together to this day. “
-Cassandra LaValle of Coco + Kelley