In 1993 – as a Junior in high school – my teacher asked the class to write a paper on their version of the ‘American Dream’. The radio stations were playing Ugly Kid Joe, and although I had never heard of Harry Chapin, my dream had already been shaped. My goal wasn’t to provide my own family with more than my father had provided his; my ‘American Dream’ was to provide the same things more easily.
My father was (and still is) a working man’s man. With only a sub-standard high school education coupled with a lot of practical know-how and a strong work ethic, he has since worked his way to a very comfortable life for he and his family. He paid a price for this comfort, however, and even at the age of 16 years, I understood what the job had done to him.
When you comin’ home, dad, I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, Son,
You know we’ll have a good time then.
While I was wearing new sneakers (riding the pine for the basketball team), he was working the night shift. When I was at school, he was waking up to split wood, maintain the house, mow the lawn, repair the cars, or work on the tractor. When my mother was driving me across 4 counties in a weekend to play 3 different ice hockey games, he was working overtime. When at camp learning about astronomy, my father was struggling to spend, earn and save more money simultaneously.
Dad just did what Dad had to do so that I could do what I wanted to do and become who he wanted me to be.
And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
AJ is in first-grade now, but we continue our tradition from kindergarten, still. Two days ago, while we were eating our ‘usual’ meal as ‘regulars’ in ‘our booth’, the radio was playing Harry Chapin and I smiled. This week, I took AJ to a doctor’s appointment, made his lunch before school, walked with him to the bus stop every morning, went to his swimming lessons, read to him at night, listened to him read to me during the day, took him to the playground (twice), went for a hike at a local state park and – now – we were eating breakfast together before school. Every morning he wakes up in a very comfortable home and (like his father before him) doesn’t want for anything. When I considered all that my week had entailed, I smiled as I raised my coffee cup to my lips.
I am living my American Dream.