I’ve not got much to say about dads. Just a lack of experience. My biological Dad died when I was six, and I don’t have many memories of him. My stepdad, well, the less said, the better.
This is a happy memory of my Dad and me.
I was about three. It would have been 1970 (yes, I’m 55), and it was a lovely sunny day. Dad took me to the market. There were stalls selling all manner of things and people everywhere. I wasn't afraid; I held tightly to my Dad's thumb and watched the people bustling about.
You know how it is on a warm summer's day; Mums chattered to their children, people greeted one another, and smiles were everywhere. The atmosphere was a happy one.
My Dad was in sales; I feel he just loved chatting with people. He was charming in the way that people who love people often are. Dad had stopped at this stall where a Jamaican man was selling drums. There were all sizes of drums, the type that people played with their hands. Not snare drums and bass drums, more like bongo drums and conga drums.
I'm not even sure what he and Dad were talking about. Maybe just chit-chat. Maybe Dad wanted to sell him something, or maybe Dad wanted a drum; I have no clue.
I think he was Jamaican because I vividly remember his big hat in the Jamaican flag colors, green, gold, and black. It was knitted and probably full of his long hair, although I didn't realize that then. Dad was chatting away, and I let go of his thumb, my eyes drawn to a piece of animal skin for sale on the stall, probably goat or rabbit.
I was only three, so I didn’t think about how the skin would have been better on the animal.
I was, and still am, a tactile person. The soft fur seemed to be begging to be touched. I reached up with my little hand and stroked it softly. The soft fuzziness of the hair enchanted me. It was so pretty, too, a creamy white color. I didn't give any thought to taking it home. I was too busy enjoying the warm softness.
That kind man saw this little girl loving his piece of fur. So, he reached over and took the hair to his little desk. He drew out a big knife and cut a bit off for me. It was about 5cm by 15cm, and I loved it. Dad reminded me to say thank you as I just looked at it and stroked it. The man seemed huge to me with this big smiley face. I thanked him, and we made our way to the next stall. My memory ends there.
What I do remember is feeling incredibly safe. My Dad being there meant I would come to no harm. That was a wonderful feeling.
And how did it shape me? I’m pretty sure that man was the first black man I had ever spoken to and probably one of the first black men I had seen. My Dad chatted to him like an old friend, and he was kind and generous to me. No fear, no problem with someone who looked different, no racism. I want to think I carried those principles with me into my family.
Our kids are mixed race; the boys are Italian and British, and my daughter is Turkish and British. Of course, they didn't meet my Dad, but I have taught them to value people highly, regardless of color, shape, religion, or culture.
I want to think that’s part of my Dad’s legacy.