Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fat Dad --jcarolek

My father was always a string bean of a man. Pictures I have of him in those early days would make ANYONE offer him a meal... he looked downright scrawny. By the time I was in high school, though, he had begun to look better nourished, though still relatively slim. I tell you this simply as a backdrop for the memory that gripped my fancy this afternoon.

I was applying the second coat of paint to my living room and was thinking about how I really wish I:

walked on stilts
had three hands
had some painter overallsI was growing weary of climbing up and down the ladder to get this and that and then juggling that and this while attempting to stay soundly perched atop the short ladder. And this fleeting coveting of the overalls took me back to about 11th grade. My best friend at the time was a girl named Kelly. She was tom-boyish, as was I. She played the guitar and taught me my first song on the guitar (The Boxer). She had overalls... I did not.

I wanted a pair of overalls something fierce. I don't really know WHY I wanted them so badly. I was neither a farmer nor a painter. I did nothing that required overalls, and yet... overalls were what I wanted. I guess I must have gone on about this desire at some length, because one night when Dad came home, I want to say from work, but that CAN'T be right, he carried with him a bag from Sears containing some items he had purchased.

I have no idea what was in the bag, though he seemed rather intent on engaging my interest. What I DID notice was that Dad looked a little "fat." I don't recall saying anything about it, but I do remember noticing. How it eventually came to pass that Dad disclosed the reason for his sudden chubby appearance, I do NOT recall. What I DO recall is that when I saw my dad in overalls, I was stunned....

Yep, under his "regular" clothes, he sported a pair of good old blue jean, farmer style, overalls. In my lifetime, I had never seen him in such attire. Sure, he liked to garden, but old work clothes were fine for him. Well, he told me the overalls were for me, and again, I was stunned. I mean, Dad was pretty thin, even then, but I was what, 15? 16? I hardly think I would fit into the same size as he could wear.

Nevertheless, I was taught NEVER to look a gift horse in the mouth and I certainly was not going to start then! I took those overalls and put them on. I did not care that they were so big on me that the bib nearly cut off my breathing when properly adjusted so the legs didn't follow a foot behind me. I did not care that the overalls "made me look fat"... no, all I cared was that I, Judy Fletcher, was the PROUD owner of my very own pair of overalls.

Using my mother's old Singer sewing machine, you know that kind with the knee control... I altered the overalls for a better fit. I took up the legs and sewed the back pockets together, taking up at least six inches in girth in that single alteration. And then, I proudly donned my new overalls... yes, still very baggy...but not obscenely so, and off I went to Kelly's.

I wore those overalls for years.

When I went to college I discovered the Army Navy store near campus and was thrilled to find they had lots of non-military clothes... including overalls... I soon owned a pair of baby blue corduroy overalls and a pair of "natural" painter paint overalls.... In fact, I believe my second child was about in kindergarten before my love affair with the overalls was put aside. I had never acquired more than the three pairs, but in those ten years, they had been well worn.

And I never asked Dad why he bought those silly things for me. I don't think it was near my birthday, or Christmas or anything. It CLEARLY was not an item of necessity, and in a family where my parents were raising seven kids at the time, "want-to-haves" rarely transformed into acquisitions... we were all quite well aware that if wishes were horses, beggars would ride and expectations of wishes coming to reality were low.

And today, as I dropped my wet paper towel I used to quickly "erase" my painting errors, as I juggled the bucket, the brush and straight-edge, as I climbed, once more, down from my perch to retrieve my escapee..... I thought of fat Dad... and missed my overalls.... for the first time in oh, I guess twenty years!

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