Pipe Dreams of Daddy

I can still smell it now – that pungent, sweet odor of tobacco emanating from its pouch.
It overpowered other aromas also his: oil paints, old leather rucksacks, and film developer.
In my mind’s eye is a row of brown briar wood pipes sitting next to a sketchpad.
Sometimes there’d also be a corncob pipe, looking so much like summertime.
That was the one I swore I’d use when old enough to smoke at his side.

I find myself in his lap, watching intently as he tamps the dried leaves into the pipe’s bowl.
When I look up, his dark eyes are dancing, playful thoughts abounding.
I’m four and a half. He’s in his mid-40s, and we have an understanding.
Neither of us will tell Mommy that he’s kept me up way beyond my bedtime
So that we can play uninterruptedly while she’s out at her meeting.

Nor will he let on that he knows I cheat when we play Concentration.
I can tell the value of the cards before they’re turned over:
The queen of spades is missing a corner and the ten of hearts is creased down the middle.
And the one that looks like it was stepped on while lying on a gravel walkway, that’s the jack of diamonds.
Daddy can’t remember their markings like I can. After all, he’s an adult.

That was then, more than two generations ago…

It was when he covered blank canvases with oils and watercolors,
Creating vibrant landscapes of pine forest, granite shoreline and blue-grey Atlantic Ocean.
It was when he took us on long walks through the woods and along rivers crisscrossed with logs, testing our knowledge of red oak, maple and hickory.
And when he played recorder and read James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks to his children.

Two days ago he would have turned one hundred. While fifty years gone, I sense him now.
He would still be puffing on one of those pipes, preparing to tell a story
Of sailing the Mediterranean, painting in Persia, or glissading down the French Alps.
Or he’d sing Yo ho ho, the wind blows free… Oh for the life on the rolling sea…”
His spirit enthralls me, his art surrounds me, and his deep love continues to embrace me.

Daddy and me

Herzl and Abi


Herzl Rome

About abitravel

I'm a lucky person since I've combined my two major passions, conservation and travel, into a profession of sorts. When I'm not organizing or leading an ecotour to Latin America or beyond, I engage in freelance writing and enjoy outdoor activities with my wife. That's the nutshell version!
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3 Responses to Pipe Dreams of Daddy

  1. Max says:

    You cheated at Concentration??!! I’m shocked. Seriously, thanks for these vivid and lively memories. Makes me wonder what I’ll write about my own Dad’s 100th.

  2. Leslie Mark says:

    I remember your home on Great Cranberry so well. I’ve often thought about writing about or drawing the goodies in what I recall as a magical toy closet. I remember playing in the little bunkhouse. I thought I remembered a walk home with your Dad. He delighted us with fright as he loudly “maw ha ha’d” down the nape of our necks. Perhaps it was my own dad, who is still an active lobsterman. Given the timing of his early passing, I regret that I must have never met him. Beautiful story Abigail. He would surely be very proud of you. Leslie

    • abitravel says:

      Leslie – it’s great to hear from you. Thanks for your compliments about my story.

      Yes, even 50+ years later, I still love to open that closet of games and toys to smell its scent and remember all the games we used to play (for hours and days on end). When small children are in the house, the closet still gets plenty of use. Unfortunately, we had to tear down “the hut” behind our house just a year ago. My oldest brother built it out of recycled wood when he was 8 years old, and it stood for over 60 years!

      The father of mine that you remember “giving you a moo,” as he called it, down your neck – was my stepfather, Julius, whom my mother married after my biological father, mentioned in the poem, died. I loved Julius too, so thanks for also mentioning him.

      Maybe you should write about your lobsterman father some day. I’m sure we’d all find it equally interesting and full of love.

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