Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dad's Key to Joy

Every June, at the conclusion of the school year, my Dad and several of his fellow teacher buddies would load their cars with fishing poles, burgers, buns, beer (Pepsi for Dad), and flannel shirts. They'd hitch up their boats and caravan for ten hours, through Erie, Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York, over the Peace Bridge to a small marina located on the Key River in Ontario, Canada.

There they'd park their cars, jump in their boats and ride seven more miles down the bendy, gorgeous waterway to a small cabin owned by one of the teachers, Mr. Barrett. They'd spend a week fishing, eating, singing oldies around the kitchen table, fishing, laughing, pulling pranks on each other, and fishing some more.  It was a wonderful tradition, and one they kept up for several years.  They even made t-shirts emblazoned with their self-appointed name:  The June Crew.

Dad anticipated that week all year long, and always returned home from the trip relaxed and happy.  Mr. Barrett was generous enough to invite our entire family up to the cabin each August, so we got a chance to see this magical place for ourselves.  We have many, many happy memories of fishing and swimming along the rocky shore of that glorious Key River, and I'll never forget them.  But deep down, I think I always knew that Dad had MUCH more fun when he was there with The June Crew at the close of every school year.

So you can imagine my delight when my sister Laura sent each of her siblings a DVD last week, copied from a video she found when going through Dad's things.  It was titled "June Crew.  June 8th, 1990."  I popped in the disc and held my breath as the image of happy, smiling men loading their boat at the Key River Marina appeared.  I recognized them all immediately as my Dad's dear friends and fellow educators.

Two things became apparent immediately.  The first was you never saw my Dad.  He was constantly behind the camera, talking to whomever he was taping at the time. The second was that you could hear my Dad's voice distinctly, and I've never heard him sound so happy.  He laughed constantly, even appearing to giggle in some places.

It's important to remind you here that my father was a constant worrier. From the days of his youth when he was forced to pick up the slack for his alcoholic father, to his adult years raising his own large family, Dad fretted about EVERYTHING.  He worried about money and about the safety and purity of his children.   He was constantly imagining he "smelled smoke" in the house and kept all the doors locked at all times, even though we lived in the middle of nowhere on a quiet cul de sac.  He was always, always tense.  Except for that one week in June.

As he followed the men loading their boats and mugging for the camera, the anticipation in Dad's voice is unmistakable.  He asks them dumb, silly questions, like, "Are we gonna catch a lot of fish on this trip?"  When the inevitable reply was, "You betcha!" he'd laugh and yell back, "Atta boy!"

As I watched the DVD from start to finish, wiping a tear away at some particularly sweet moments, a thought occurred to me.  I don't know if I've ever been as happy as my Dad sounded on that tape.  I've been in some great places with gorgeous scenery, with awesome company, but I'm not sure if my voice has ever sounded as exuberant and giddy as Dad's did as he rode on his friend's boat down that Key River.  I'm so grateful he had that week every year.

How about you?  Do you have a place that makes you deliriously joyful?  Do you have a yearly gathering with friends or family that you anticipate, and never disappoints?  Oh, I hope so!  Everyone, at some point, should sound like Dad did on that tape.  It's my wish for you today.  I hope you find a place that you can share with the people you love the most in this world.  A place that makes you relax and smile, but also invigorates and inspires you!

If you've already found that place, will you tell me about it now? I'd LOVE to hear about it! And as always,

Thanks for Reading!!


Unknown said...

What a beautiful post. We all should have a happy place. I think mine may be right here in front of my computer reading delightful posts from fellow bloggers and posting some chuckles of my own!

Carrie Van Horn said...

Joan this is such an inspiring post! Just love your blog, and glad that your husband encouraged you to use your talent! I think I am in the same boat with Eva...in front of my computer reading other's blogs is a wonderful place for me. :-)

Lisalulu said...

great post, memories of your dad, makes me miss mine too!

Pearl said...

What a gift that DVD is!

I am happiest when surrounded by happy people, when the conversation is light and smart, when there's a chance to create.


Anonymous said...

Joan!!!!! This dvd gift is sooo cool! I am sooooo happy for you!!! Thank you so much for writing this post and letting us know!

I'm happy when the whole family meets! It's giddiness of a different level! :)

Red Shoes said...

That dvd is priceless! It's always there for you...

My happy place tends to be out West... Grand Canyon... Monument Valley...(been to both) Sedona, AZ... Moab, Utah... never been to either.

There is something therapeutic about those places for me... I need to get back...


Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

OMG I have fished there with my hubby....okay I didn't fish much. I drink and make him food. But it's so beautiful up there. (sadly my home town was Erie pa.so I know that trek well)

My happy place is our lake home. Any time I am on the water and with hubby I am a peaceful happy gal.

Where is your place????

Sharon said...

WOW! Thank you for helping us remember that it does not take fame fortune money or whatever to make us truly happy...it comes from within, it comes from our families, our friends, our PRIDE and JOY(s)...and your dad was very proud of WHO he was and WHAT he did...Joanie...this was amazing as always....thank you for humbling us..

Joanie said...

What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

I think the most relaxing vacation I ever took was my Just Divorced Cruise with my friend, Tina in Jan 2007. We didn't do much off the ship, but I don't think I laughed like that in years!

My annual trip to Ocean City, MD is one I look forward to every year! We rent a small house from my friend. I can't wait for next September, so we can go again!

jel said...

I'm so glad ya got good memories of your dad, and that your sis, sent ya that dvd!

Kakka said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful heartfelt post. I can not say I have a place that I feel such joy, but there are a couple I go to that I feel relaxed both in the south west of WA in Margaret River.

How wonderful to have that DVD as a reminder of your Dad. xxx

Rianna said...

You share the best things on this blog - its so beautiful to visit here!
I've got a place I love to visit; its cliffs on the beach at Noosa (Sunshine Coast, Australia). That's definitely my favourite spot there - watching the waves crash below and looking all the way out to sea.

ReformingGeek said...

That's another great story, Joan!

I remember my dad being the happiest when he was tinkering with his Harley.

Me? I feel peace tinkering in the garden.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

This is such a heartwarming post, Joan. The pictures are great too.
I don't have a particular special place. Thanks for your wish. I wish the same for you.

I loved your comment and laughter on my blog today, too. Thanks! I agree. The comments are hysterical. I think I need to do a separate post on them.


Daisymum said...

Wow,this post makes you think! Recently I opened a package and found 3 One a Day knitting calendars. I submitted my patterns to be published in this calendar, and they chose 3 of mine! As I found each one in it I smiled from ear to ear! I haven't done that in a while. Then I went to Joann's Craft Store last night and saw the calendar on the shelf and smiled once again! I wanted to shout to everyone, "Hey, my patterns are in here!" What an amazing feeling! Thanks for having me remember that again! You know, your talents have made me smile as well! I miss you!

christopher said...

Superb post-with great thought and emotion.

Amusement parks and snow covered hills do it for me. Weekend golf excursions as well. But sometimes I find the spontaneity of a same day planned sporting event to be even more enjoyable.

I also love the serenity of the Maine woods and the natural beauty of the Cape Cod shores.

Shan said...

I have two places. Moss Point (a gorgeous cove in Laguna Beach, California) is a place I was first taken to by a boy. He made us drinks (badly... gag!) and we had a lovely time. He didn't last, but the place did. As a very young adult, I would go there with my pal Dave and get stranded on the rocks as the water came in. It went back out just before daybreak. We'd stop for coffee on our way back home from a night of philosophical (and/or goofy) discussions. I only take my best people. It's where Tom and I got engaged. It's where Nance and I went to talk about things she was going through.
My second place is Chicagoland every other year at Christmas. We go to see Tom's family in Waukegan and Chicago, and then head up to a tiny little town in Wisconsin to see my aunt and cousins. It's funny, there's always something "wrong" with that trip (once Tom and I broke up.. the worst!... and last time we all got salmonella poisoning), but I still love it. I love how happy Tom is to be with his family and in his familiar surroundings. That makes me *very* happy.
I hope you find your place, too.

Kyna said...

Well, as you saw on my last post, any gathering with my few good friends makes me incredibly happy. Also, I'm probably that happy every year on my birthday ( I love my birthday lol)

But most of the time, it's seeking out 'adventure'. I was never the adventurous type when I was little. Now whenever Chuck and I have a day off together, and it's sunny out, he asks what I want to do. I always say 'A picnic. Then let's go on adventure!' Doesn't have to be anything scary or exciting to other people...it could be us just driving around all afternoon with the windows down...driving through a town we've never driven through. Exploring a cemetery. Going canoeing. Finding a cool, odd museum. I am never happier than I am on these 'adventures'. And picnics? I LOVE picnics. Again, doesn't have to be elaborate. Picking up our favourite subs from Subway, and sitting at a table in the park by the water. Awesomeness.

And it's funnier, because I'm a worrier and have a hard time relaxing. I inherited that from MY dad lol.

Really cool story about your dad :D

Teresa Evangeline said...

The North shore of Lake superior, here in Minnesota, and the canyons of SE Utah. My two favorite places to be. How wonderful that you have this DVD. My dad was a big hunter and every year did a trip with his friends and son in-laws. When I think of him now, I always see him on the edge of the mountain in the Brooks Range of Alaska. No matter the politics of hunting, he was so happy then. It was being in wild places that spoke to him, I think. thanks for giving me an opportunity to really think about my dad this way and to think about my own need for these special places in my life.

Being Me said...

Joan, this post has given me goosebumps. So lovely. I am SO pleased your dad did that. It has been many years since I have been filled with joy to the extent that my voice lets everybody know it. Not as easy to rectify as one might think, and Lord knows I keep trying to this day.

Thank you for sharing this, you have reignited my passion for finding a magical place to make a yearly pilgrimage to - I had one with my family as a kid and I have many fond memories of it.

Green Monkey said...

ohhh that was heart warming GOOD!

don't make me say it...... you know it.....

yes, my passion place is..... BURNING MAN!!!

but sadly, no fishes ...love fishes..... love reading you

Mercy said...

Everyone needs time to get away like that. I think that getting away from the routine is what makes people change from their usual selves to someone who is relaxed and having fun. I'm always a little more relaxed and enjoying life in the days leading up to a vacation. I know I'll be going somewhere nice, with no housework or cooking to tend to. Even if I have my kids with me I can relax more than usual and I enjoy it.
I love the beach or a poolside or a grassy area where I can sit and read and my kids can play safely so I don't have to worry about them while I'm trying to relax.
From the sounds of it, your dad found joy during that time not just because he was doing something he liked but because he was making it fun for the others he was with. I once heard a saying that j.o.y. is an acrynom for


and that if you keep your perspective on life in that order then you will always have joy.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

So lovely that your Dad found somewhere that he could unwind: mine was the beach that's pictured at the top of my blog. It was an escape and a haven for many years, and while we can no longer easily go there, I'll always have the memories of all the fabulous days I spent there with the kids...and sometimes on my own x

Dana said...

Oh, Joan...what a beautiful post. What a treasure to have that DVD. I'm sure you would have liked it if someone had turned the camera on him, but, to have his voice full of laughter is probably worth a thousand pictures.

I can't say there's one physical place that fills me with joy...but being with my kids, and especially being with Dwayne, when we don't have anywhere to be or anything to do, we're just in the moment and really WITH each other. :D

Jaime said...

great post.

my happy place is a hammock overlooking the ocean in the bahamas. there's just something about it that instantly relaxes me... and since it usually takes me a few days to unwind, that's saying a lot

Rhonda Schrock said...

My husband and I just got back from a weekend at one of our favorite places. It's on a peninsula, a little point up in Michigan that is bordered by two lakes. No place does fall color like Michigan. With the sound of the water, a fireplace, a good pair of jammies, and the four boys back at home, it was an incredibly relaxing time! Everyone needs such a spot.

Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit said...

I love reading your Dad stories.

What makes me deliriously happy? Well, to be honest, my "safe" place has always been standing on a grassy hill, high above everything, away from houses, cars, computers and phones, and breathing in the simplicity of nature. As it was intended. Challenges look minor and irrelevant when on a hill.
And the other spot is always by the ocean. It has the same effect.
Thanks for sharing! Keep doing it. It makes me appreciate my own father ...

Anonymous said...

Hi Joan I stumbled upon your blog in google images and I can relate to your Dads joy at being on the "KEY"
Being in close proximity to the Barrett camp we would always note the spring arrival of the fishing gang waving to their boats as they set out on yet another expedition to catch the big one.
All too soon the laughter and frivolity would fade and the camp would be silent again.
Although we are fortunate enough to visit the key most weeks from May to September we feel on every visit much as your Dad did.
Sitting here on a cloudy February day my thoughts are on spring, the opening of the cottage and the fond memories that call us back each year.
Thanks for an enjoyable read.


Anonymous said...

Hi Joan!Great Blog! Just saw it yesterday and was drawn back to it again today. There really is something magical about spending time on the Key River. I still go every year... My Dad is Mr. Barrett. I thought you should know there is still a picture of your Dad on our mantle at the camp. He, and your family are a part of it's history. Best wishes, Tim

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