My favourite ever poem was given to me by my dad quite a few years ago now. It was done in a beautiful paper cutting style and framed. It hangs on the wall in my bedroom to this day even though I know the words by heart. They are:
Not flesh of my flesh or bone of my bone but nevertheless still my own, never forget not for a single minute, you were not born under my heart but in it.
Not many people can say this but I actually chose my dad. I adopted my dad when I was just a toddler. He went out on a date with my mother, they brought me along and I decided for both of them that he would be my dad. I even called him daddy that day much to my mother’s panic. Most people do not know he adopted me. I am so much more like him than any other person I have met.
In the year 1977 a smaller blonder version of myself was laying on the couch in the living room of an Albany, New York home, wrapped in a soft brown lion printed blanket, sucking my finger and twiddling the hair of my tattered looking doll. Curious George the monkey and Kermit the Frog dropped by to help me to sleep too. I had night issues and wouldn’t go to sleep upstairs alone so most nights I fell asleep downstairs. Most children had lullabies that were soothing and calming but my dad was cultivating my love of good music even at that early age and I often went to sleep listening to The Clash, The Sex Pistols or Queen. Every so often I would forget I was supposed to be going to sleep and would belt out, “dree over the drackle, dree over the drackle, of the world” which was my more creative version of “We are the Champions”.
I may have gotten some of the lyrics wrong back in those days but music inspired me to listen for the rhythm, the feeling and the meaning behind the words.
Although nothing could beat Sesame Street or Mr Roger’s Neighbourhood as my television of choice back in those early days of my youth, my dad exposed me to some fabulous sci-fi and fantasy. I remember watching Dr Who, Star Trek, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Gallactica on television. 2001 Space Odyssey is not only a landmark film but it was one of our all-time favourites along with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and of course there was always Star Wars.
Remembering these moments begins to put into perspective why I am a sci-fi/fantasy writer. It really must have been all my dad’s fault because my mother was certainly not a sci-fi fan.
Flash forward to the year 1980, it was a very cold winter day. I woke up before the sunshine that day and made my way into the kitchen to find my parents in a comforting embrace. Tears streaked their cheeks. “What’s wrong I asked?”
“John Lennon was shot and killed last night,” was the answer I got. I did not quite understand the world wide impact of that event at that age but I certainly understood the implication in emotional terms. I learned then that artists evoked feelings in people.
In 1981 my dad took me to see Time Bandits at the movie theatre and I remember going home to tell my mom all about the scene where Vermin bites the rat’s head off, over and over, you can imagine she was really pleased. In 1982 our trips to the theatre were to see E.T. and Tron. I loved them, they really sparked my imagination and I loved acting them out.
In the years to come I began to explore my own musical interests. By the age of six I had already worn out my Blondie, Heart of Glass cassette from playing it each and every night until I fell asleep. I later replaced it with Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation. I certainly had learned to have music in my life.
Other notable and fabulous films my dad and I shared in the 80s include Dune, Ghostbusters, Iceman, Gremlins, Short Circuit, The Last Starfighter and Starman, Cocoon, D.A.R.Y.L, Mad Max, Batteries Not Included and Spaceballs. We also loved Indiana Jones and Back to the Future. They sometimes made us laugh or left us feeling awe but mainly they made us think.
In my upper elementary years I had a few great teachers who recognised my love of a good fantasy story and encouraged me to write my own. That was the start of the writing spark.
In my middle school years I rediscovered The Eagles, Led Zepplin and Jimmy Hendrix. I couldn’t forget Tom Petty and The Traveling Wilburys either, that was some great stuff. I also developed a taste for hair bands. The more glam rock they were, the better. I will admit only this once to also liking certain boy bands that were popular in the day. Every girl needs a few guilty pleasures. This was one of the few types of music my dad and I disagreed on.
For the most part in my high school years, my dad and I revisited the films I have already listed and laughed together at the newer movies which seemed to be more in the comedy genre.
Yet another teacher challenged me to write. My writing took the form of philosophical poetry. I wrote about the things I wondered about most. Music being one of my inspirations.
Then grunge brought us the gifts of Nirvana and pearl Jam. My dad and I would sit in the car and talk about the meanings behind some of the lyrics for hours. We loved a deep conversation the best and if it involved speculations on aliens, even better.
I have a pink spiral bound notebook from those days where I wrote down lyrics to songs that I wrote in my head. Some of them read like poetry but are so full of angst and teenage sappiness, you’d probably either need uppers or downers to read them. They were however indications of my great need and desire to write beginning to truly emerge.
I had always been an avid reader but as I entered my teens I began to collect old books. My dad used to scour flea markets and antique shops to find me interesting and unusual ones. Some of which I still have and treasure to this day.
In 1994 when I was making my way through college, Green Day graced the world with their album Dookie and yet again my dad and I were reunited through our common love of good music.
Then in 2002 my dad walked with me to where my soon to be husband was standing. The song that played that day was The Beatles, In My Life. I moved to just outside of Liverpool in 2003 and no longer live near my parents but when we get together my dad and I still share the same taste in music, film and sometimes he finds me a great old book.
Recalling all of these shared moments with my dad makes me wonder, if it wasn’t for him, then perhaps the small blonde version of myself that lay awake listening to the music all those years ago might not have grown to become the writer of fantasy stories that I am today.
On your birthday and father’s day today, I just wanted to say, “Thank you for all the gifts you have given me and I love you daddy!” Have a great birthday/father’s day.