WHAT I TREASURE
My Dear Dad Journal by Rebecca Muddiman
My dad often spoke of writing his memoirs and, searching for the ideal present, I came across this journal full of questions to jog the memory and dig into your past. Perfect, I thought. Except once I got the book through the post, I realised that it was intended for the recipient to fill in and give back to me. Homework is not what most people want for a gift, especially when said homework includes what I perceived as rather narcissistic questions such as “What do you like about me?” I decided to find another gift to go along with the book.
But my dad being my dad, he dutifully filled each page in his spidery scrawl with memories and anecdotes about his own life and mine, and, as a family history buff, also included information and photos about my ancestors, before handing it back to me. Curious, I sat down with it and flicked through, wondering if he’d have answered such questions as “If you were an animal, what would you be?” (He did; it was a bear.)
I only intended to have a quick look, to read a page or two at a time, but I soon found myself turning page after page, getting to know things about my dad I’d been totally unaware of. There were things that made me laugh, that made me cry, his troubles and regrets, stories of youthful mischief and one about the death of a family pet that affected him deeply, explaining his reluctance to form attachments to our pets in later life.
We’re not a family of huggers, nor do we say that we love each other. And even though I already knew he loved me and my mam and siblings, through his words in the book it became so much clearer. It might be cringe-inducing to ask someone what they like about you, but it still warms the heart to read a reply that says, “If the world was full of Beckas, it would be a better place.”
Of all the (many, many) books on my shelves, this would be the one I reached for in case of a fire. So I keep the book on my desk, dipping in every now and then, staying connected, even though he only lives down the street. And as I flick through now, landing on the question (another cringe alert), “What attributes did I have as a child that I still have now?”, I see part of the answer is that I seem to put “real effort into buying gifts for people that reflect their interests”.
Perhaps it wasn’t such a bad gift after all.