Monday, 15 June 2015
Just Don't Embarrass Me, Dad
"Just don't embarrass me, Dad"
The title of this post comes from a line I uttered in all sincerity to my own father when I was 12 and we were all heading into the town near our cottage, Grand Bend, for a trip to Kiddy City, a small amusement park, and to stroll the strip for ice cream and maybe play Galaga in the arcade. It must have been a Thursday night as that was half-price night.
Grand Bend Ontario, if you have never been, is a resort town which, in the summer months, quadruples its population and its average age plummets to roughly 23. Back in the day it was a rocking place with people strutting and sashaying along the sidewalks in bathing suits or driving the strip in open windowed cars to check out 'the talent' (as my dad used to describe it). Bars belting out rocking tunes as inside sunburned and very drunk people tried to make meaningful human connections (or something like that.) It's like a mini-Spring Break. Every weekend. One of my favourite moments was seeing an OPP cruiser driving down the street and the cop in the passenger side reaching out to knock the beer can out of the hand of some guy in cut-offs and a lot of woven bracelets who was standing on the sidewalk. Yeah, that was a good one.
Eventually I left Kiddy City behind as I grew older and got a summer job and cruised the strip no longer looking for ice cream or the high score in Galaga. In many ways The Bend hasn't changed all that much, although instead of selling hacky sacs and sex wax it caters more to tattoos and piercings. Ick. Now, I'm sure it still rocks on summer nights but since Kiddy City has closed down I have had no reason to go into town with my own kids on summer nights.
Knowing what I know now I would have realized that telling my dad not to embarrass me was: 1) futile, as my parents' sheer existence at that stage embarrassed me; and 2) like waving a flag in the face of a bull. I know this because this is the stage I'm at now with my kids - show me the slightest hint you are embarrassed by me and I will RAMP IT UP. Yes. It's one of my few pleasures. When my kids were younger and would throw a fit in the middle of a department store or went boneless in the street screaming and yelling, I would lean in and tell them, "Just so you know, this is really embarrassing for me. Enjoy it. Because when you are a teenager, I will get my own back and humiliate you in public mercilessly through my antics." And I keep my promises.
Back to the past. We were walking down the Grand Bend strip and I was ahead of my Dad who had my brother on his shoulders and my sister by the hand. As I walked past a booth where for a dollar you could request a record to be played as a rotating red police light would flash (I think it might have been called The Soul Shack), I heard the young Black woman behind the counter shout out, "Groove, Daddy, Groove." I turned and, to my horror, saw my father just totally get down in the middle of the street with my brother still on his shoulders and my sister dancing around his feet. I melted into a sticky puddle of humiliation and joined discarded ice cream cones in running down to the gutter.
And of course I have become completely the same. As I dance around in the kitchen to some choice track my kids will shriek in fear and loathing as they try to pluck their eyes from their heads shouting, "Out, vile jelly." Oh, yeah, the Oedipal/Shakespeare mash-up reference there isn't accidental.
However, it all came nicely full circle this last week. My youngest sister got married and my dad and she took the floor for the compulsory father daughter dance and, frankly, he rocked it. Soon we all were on the dance floor and for once my kids seemed to really enjoy dancing with me (and my wife) and we had a ball - none of caring how we looked and consequently all looking really happy.
* As a nice Coda, my oldest (12 years old) went to a bar mitzvah the following weekend and came back with a Montreal Canadiens' (Subban) jersey which he won - by dancing for duration of the party. I feel very proud - and sorry for my grandkids - he's really going to embarrass them some day.