(This is the second post on my Dad. The first is here.)
If I close my eyes I can feel my small hands clasp the chain-link fence standing between me and a train heaving down the tracks behind the day-care. It’s recess. Behind me and beside me there are 15 other little boys and girls. We were all playing on the playground near each other. The sound of the train breaks into our ears and takes our attention captive. We line up and gape.
I’m three. Maybe four.
We live in Texas. My Dad is in school studying to be a pastor. But I know none of this. I don’t know our poverty. I don’t know the difficulties of raising 4 boys, going to seminary and staying happy. They never let on. All I know is we live in a ginormous white house. The biggest one on the campus for the biggest family on campus. Go figure. And my dad is a janitor.
The only other memory I’ve retained involving said day-care – my mom had to work – is a walk. If you pressed me, I would say it was Autumn. All those boys and girls with daddies wanting to be pastors and three, maybe four year old Matt, were walking across the campus of the Seminary. The trees are huge. Heck, everything seems huge when you are three, maybe four. But I remember thinking the buildings of Seminary were incredible big. We just might be walking in the direction of the house where I live, when I am not in day-care. And I see him.
My Dad is working on the enormous lawn, under the enormous trees by the enormous buildings. It was either at this point or later that I declared proudly to the others, “MY Dad is a janitor.” The thing that gets me about this memory is the pride at being able to see my Dad working. There he was. I was able to see him while out on a walk.
This never changed. He was always present. My brothers and I never had that complaint. Though a pastor, he was always available to work on the car, throw the ball, shoot baskets, give rides. Whatever. Sometimes he took me to school and sometimes he picked me up. Available whenever.
He was never really a janitor. He worked part-time for the grounds crew. Which is more pastoral. But that wouldn’t have minded me none. I was three, maybe four. My vocabulary and grasp on the meanings of words was not quite as sturdy as my grasp on that fence. Little hands, little mind. A dad as a janitor would be fine with me. I got to see him on walks.
Brilliant writing, Matt!
Hey matt great post. I've been working at CFA for @4 months now and my two oldest like to call me a fryer or a nuggetter. A small humbling role that they have immense respect for. Taught me to appreciate my job and do it whatever it is to the best of my capacity.
Hey Matt, if "the Seminary" is/was Southwestern, I was there in the early 60s while both my parents worked their way through school. It wasn't called "daycare" back then – it was "nursery school", and mine had railroad tracks across the street. Mom worked the seminary switchboard (an old Kellogg Mark 1, a la Lily Tomlin's "Ernestine" character), and Dad worked at Boswell Dairies. Did you ever lie down on the star in the middle of the rotunda floor and look up at the dome? I went back for a visit in 1997, and things sure looked different!