Sunday, July 4, 2010


Father’s Day always seems to be a bit of a forgotten holiday. Sure, it has been celebrated for 100 years, but that’s not as many as Mother’s Day (which has precisely one more). One wonders if Father’s Day would have ever come to mind if Mother’s Day hadn’t been made up first. Just another example of fathers being second-class citizens.

Mother’s Day enjoys the mild spring weather of mid-May while Father’s Day sits smack dab in the middle of the vernal equinox, just as the heat of summer is beginning to permeate the atmosphere. Mother’s Day occurs during school months, allowing teachers to plan a multitude of art and gift-making activities for the students to take home to mom.

Father’s Day comes a few weeks after school is out and is overshadowed by graduation season. As an afterthought, an ugly tie or unneeded fishing lure is poorly wrapped and left at dad’s breakfast table, the gift giver having long since left the house to hang out with friends.

Children love to wake early on Mother’s Day to serve mom breakfast in bed. Then a few weeks later they call from inside the house, “C’mon, Dad, hurry up with that barbecue!” If Dad didn’t cook on his special day he’d probably go hungry.

Pity the poor father. Even if his years as male parent haven’t been as bleak as described, something is lacking in his special day. Father’s Day is more Groundhog Day and less Christmas; more Flag Day, less Halloween. So I decided to dress it up this year and make it the preeminent event that would be remembered for years to come.

My kids have done many nice things for me on Father’s Days past, I’m sure of it. After all, I’ve been celebrating Father’s Day since 1991. I just can’t remember any of them. The homemade cards, the clay sculptures from school, the undercooked sausage and egg served in bed with warm beer. They all fade in the annals of time. Father’s Day 2010, however, I will remember, for a long, long time.

Taking a cue from the Baxter Family Book of Important Things, I discovered a particular concert would be held in a nearby city on this year’s Father’s Day. Kristin and I had seen this act in the past, thrice in fact. In 1985 after dating for about two months, and then in 1986 and 1988 as a married couple. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you . . .

Iron Maiden.

I hope you are not thinking, “Who?” I’d be embarrassed for you. But for a one-paragraph history lesson, let me simply say that Iron Maiden is one of the most successful bands to come out of the Second British Invasion of Heavy Metal in the early 80s. They’ve been making music for thirty-five years, with the same core musicians for thirty of those years. I have all their albums and my children can sing along with many of their songs. Oh yeah, one more thing: Kristin is in love with the lead singer.

So we got tickets. The crowded parking lot that Sunday night took me back to the heady days of early-Reagan. The line to enter the gates snaked around the perimeter fence while fans drank their seventh beer, leaving the empties to rattle around the asphalt. There were a lot of gray-tops like me, but this was not simply a novelty act for oldsters to reclaim their lost youth. There were kids as young as ten, and plenty of teenagers (including two named Baxter who kept following me around).

The big difference I noticed that evening was my short-term memory. When I saw Iron Maiden in the 80s I could go home and remember the set list, even days later. Then I noticed at a Blue Öyster Cult show a few years ago that I was forgetting some of the songs they played . . . while the show was still going on! I didn’t want that to happen to my new Father’s Day memories.

“Hey, Kyle!” I shouted, even though he was four inches away. Iron Maiden was really blasting the tunes. I think their amplifiers went all the way to 11.

“What?” Kyle screamed.

I pointed to his iPod Touch and mimicked tapping its tiny on-screen keys to make a list of songs. “The Wicker Man,” I said, the first song that had just ended. I wiggled my fingers again and Kyle understood. He proceeded to enter the first song, and then typed “Ghost of the Navigator,” the second.

I nodded my thanks and returned my attention to the band. They were flailing around the stage, drums a-banging and guitars a-wailing and the object of Kristin’s affection (the lead singer, not the Father’s Day celebrant standing next to her) a-shrieking. I offered the appropriate response: rock ‘n roll devil horns. Fist raised in the air with pointer and pinkie extended, arm thrown forward in time to the music. Kyle dutifully recorded each song title as it began.

It was a magical evening, with one sad realization. I was back in my rock and roll element, sharing it with my wife and kids, and hearkening back over twenty-five years of heavy metal concerts.

But my brain had been replaced by an electronic toy.

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